Empathy: The soft skill that gets hard results

Empathy has long been embedded in counselling practice and as such not always been given the credit as the powerful attribute it should. Along with the battle to get mental health taken seriously, despite overwhelming evidence, both for individuals psychological well-being, but the economic workforce of having people off ill when it all gets too much, empathy gets put on the back burner too. Yet, this ‘soft skill’ of empathy gets hard results.

Within medical settings, empathy positively impacts on patient satisfaction (meaning less complaints), better patient recall of medical information and less repeat visits to the GP, helping both the financial as well as the emotional aspect of care in the health system. It doesn’t stop there either, teachers see pupils with higher motivation and effort when empathy is used. And  Marshal Rosenburg, found with his work on Non Violent Communication, understanding the ‘needs’ of another is the key to conflict resolution, from personal relationships to war torn communities, with empathy being a key skill in hearing and understanding those needs. In study after study in leadership, empathy comes out as the number one skill to possess.

So this so called soft skill really impacts. But why? Well there are 100’s of studies on why and, a fair few out there discrediting them. However, working with the people I work with, primarily in the NHS but also other organisations, I often see people come in feeling a little defensive and burnt our, as they are often already feeling that they are empathic. But what they realise as they travel on a journey with me, connecting on a human level and dealing with some of the less comfortable emotions, is a comonality. As we together identify what empathy means to them and what it feels like when someone really listens and understands, what they identify as good for someone else, corresponds with what they would want also, often recognising when this has not been present and the positive impact when it has. Identifying, validation, compassion, understanding, time, to be seen and heard, to be valued, they realise it is not just about what is good for others, but what we all seek.

It is no coincidence that patient experience is better when the patient feels validated. That the pupil is more motivated knowing they are valued and understood. That conflict is less exacerbated when we can get to the emotional needs someone has. Staying consciously aware of the need for empathy, in organisations, to offer best practice and look after staff well being,  means putting empathy and emotional awareness higher up on the agenda, both culturally and individually. This is from leadership and throughout organisations, investing in it and in the hard results that can be gained from it.

Courses run by C&C Empathy Training and suitable for anyone working in the public sector.

A Journey Through Complaints Using Empathy

“Hospital Trusts must listen well to complaints” Rob Behrens, Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsmen, 17th August, 2017

‘Investigation teams must be compromised of staff who have the skills to apply the Duty of Candour compassionately, and the skills to support individuals at a time of complex bereavement’ CQC Learning Accountability and Candour.

Description: A one-day course ideal for those working with families raising an initial concern or following the official complaints procedure. Delegates will develop the confidence to handle such conversations with reasoned empathy, aiding honest investigations and preventing prolonged psychological harm (Duty of Candour). This course promotes staff mental health and well-being as well as patient focused communication. This course can be adapted for non health and social care professionals.

 “I would highly recommend this course to anyone working in the Complaints sector. The information conveyed on the day was invaluable to gaining a deeper understanding of the role of empathy in dealing with complaints. It also helped elicit a desire to connect more fully with those offering feedback on the service, and really understand their story”

Maddie Bettess, Complaints Manager, Barchester Healthcare

A Journey in Leadership Using Empathy

A multitude of skills are required and one of the most important skills is empathy. The 2015 Global Empathy Index identified that the top 10 businesses (among 160), that had effectively empathic leaders and managers generated 50% more net income per employee, than the bottom 10 businesses.

Description: This one-day course examines, in a unique, thought provoking and human way, the important role empathy and emotional awareness plays in inclusive leadership, staff well-being and productivity, and what erodes it. Delegates will develop an understanding of the psychology of emotionally focused thinking and outcomes and learn essential skills to understand and implement effective relationship focused work, underpinned with empathy and emotional development.

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