I have actually had this post in my drafts box since last May! It covers such an important topic, that I don’t mind sharing it a few months late 🙂 In our nutrition counseling class last spring quarter, we discussed strategies to building meaningful relationships with clients. Nutrition counseling is not simply developing a meal-plan for someone. It’s about exploring the multiple facets of a person’s past, present, and future that drive their decision-making and eating behaviors.
Strong provider-client relationships are built on connection. And the best way to connect with someone – especially someone seeking help – is to practice empathy.
Notice that I didn’t say “be empathetic”. Rather, I said practice empathy.
Yes, there is a difference.
“Empathy is a choice – a vulnerable choice – because in order to express empathy, we have to connect with something in ourselves that knows that feeling.”
‘Empathy’ is feeling with people.
↑ ↑ ↑ ↑ and sometimes, that can be really, really hard.
The short video below of Brené Brown, a research professor and best-selling author, really resonated with me.
Empathy is something that can be learned and practiced. At times, it can be really difficult to know “the perfect thing to say” when someone shares that they are feeling grief, pain, or loneliness.
empathy – fuels connection
sympathy – drives disconnection
Empathy is not trying to find the silver lining – empathetic responses don’t begin with “well at least you….[have a job; had fun while it lasted; have more time; etc.]”. Sometimes, empathy can be expressed by a simple:
“I know that must have been a difficult thing to share, so thank you for trusting me with that information. I don’t know what to say, but know that I am here for you.”
Empathy should be practiced daily because it makes us kinder, more patient people. Especially if you’re in the health care field, I encourage you to watch this video. It’s a moving reminder to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
- Is empathy something you experience or feel on a daily basis?
- Who is the most empathetic person that you know and why?
- Where do you think empathy is missing from our society?