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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Hard Science Goes Head-to-Head With the “Fluffy” Stuff.

Thank you to my great friend Jeff who sent me this podcast from Freakonomics Radio. This is right up my alley and I can’t get enough of it!

Can you imagine if compassion could significantly impact your bottom line as well as staff retention and satisfaction? Well, it can!

The notion that compassion is a “fluffy” attribute has been officially debunked. Leading scientific researchers and physicians at Cooper University Health Care (intensive care and emergency room providers) surprised themselves and found that the hard science shows excellent evidence that showing compassion to others has not only social but economic benefits.

When the researchers asked patients “what were the “extremely important” traits in a doctor, 85 percent say “yes” to being treated ‘with dignity and respect.’ Only 27 percent say they want them trained in one of the best medical schools. Only 58 percent say, ‘Has a lot of experience.’ Patients want these factors that are more on the spectrum of empathy and compassion. “

These statistics made me pause, 85% of patients want empathy and compassion yet, this is never taught in medical school, incentivised, or documented in any way when seeing a patient.

“Empathy is a human capacity that allows us to perceive, process, and respond to others’ emotional states.”

This same research showed empathy and compassion was shown to have physiologic effects on patients such as lowering blood pressure and lowering the perception of pain. But get this... it also had significant effects on the provider showing lower rates of burnout and higher rates of job satisfaction. Basically the healer is also healed!

Sadly, “the rate of physician burnout in the U.S. between 40 and 54 percent. That’s roughly double the burnout rate among workers in other fields, even “after controlling for hours and other factors.” It’s also estimated that the rate of physician suicide is double that of the general population — between 300 and 400 doctors each year.”

Clearly, whether you are in the medical field or not, incorporating and encouraging compassion into your practice and work environment is an obvious win- win on many fronts.

So how do you do it?

Helen Riess, a Harvard psychologist, has founded the company Empathetics, where she teaches the art of compassion and empathy.

Riess has a great acronym to get you started:

Eye contact: connecting with another through eye contact - oxytocin is released and a connection is created.

Muscles of the face: your facial expression should mimic the others sorrow or concern, again connecting both individuals

Posture: how you hold yourself and the body language you display will create connection

Affect: showing concern and understanding of the others situation

Tone: your voice and volume

Hearing: Have you really listened to the other with curiosity and concern?

Your response: Do your words meet the other person where they are or are you responding with your own agenda?

These two self proclaimed science nerds may have converted to the softer side after seeing the evidence for compassion. Dr.’s Mazzarelli and Trzeciak have since written a book titled Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference.

My Challenge to You:

  • Empathy is a gift to yourself as well as another. Choose to invest, what is the downside?

  • Take the acronym E.M.P.A.T.H.Y., choose one letter and focus on integrating that more powerfully into your relationships and conversations. I would love to hear your experience.

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