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Empathy

Empathy involves identifying and understanding the experience of another person, where sympathy involves sharing in the experience of another. In the context of the medical interview, empathy requires listening to the total communication- words, feelings, and gestures- and letting the patient know that you are really hearing what he or she is saying.

  • When used effectively it strengthens the doctor-patient relationship and facilitates working together

  • Be aware of the patient’s facial expression, intonation and body language

  • Strive for basic understanding and respect for patient: e.g. explore and acknowledge patient’s concerns:

    • A statement like, «that sounds like it would be very uncomfortable» may let the patient know you empathize with them

    • Explore how the illness has affected the patient and be aware of how this is shaped by social context and varies by gender

 

Non-verbal skills:

  • Be aware of your own body language, posture, and eye contact

  • Notice the patient’s body language: leaning away? toward? fidgeting?