In Your Shoes
Every day we pass one another in our daily activities. How often do we really notice the other person who crosses our path, let alone begin to know what is going on with them? Especially these days, when so many are fixated on their cell phones, even as they walk across a busy street, I wonder: are we losing our sense of humanity? We like to think that we are compassionate in our daily doings. Yet what is needed now more than ever is empathy. What is the difference between the two qualities?
Compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. In other words, to put ourselves in their existence, in their shoes, as they old saying goes.
This old saying has taken on new meaning by the Cleveland Clinic. If you ran one of the world’s most prestigious medical centers, would you instill empathy as a core value to your mission? And if so, how would you go about doing this? How could you teach your employees to use empathy as the critical path to caring for their patients?
Well, if you’re the Cleveland Clinic, you start by producing annual Empathy and Innovation Summits where you bring together all associated in the field of healing and exchange ideas for implementation. Next you produce videos which take the viewer on a journey of about four minutes, where empathy is defined in a much broader and deeper way than the cold dictionary definition above.
If you can take four minutes and watch the video they produced in 2013, please don’t turn it off during the first minute where it mostly focuses on patients who are in the throes of disease. By the second minute you are taken out of the hospital rooms and into the hallways where you find out what is actually going on in the personal lives of those you pass. The video accomplishes this by a short line of information that appears above the scene. You get to go by dozens of people at work in the hospital as well as visitors and random people you pass on the escalator. And as you go by, that one line appears and you are surprised to find out what that person is thinking!
The video asks, “If you could walk in someone else’s shoes, would you treat them differently?”
That’s the question we can ask ourselves as we go about our days, passing strangers along the way, now pausing to ponder that what could really be going on in their life. Showing a little empathy by saying hello or giving a genuine smile as we pass may bring them unexpected relief.