Empathy can be defined as “…the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” and is one of the cornerstones of generating rapport with clients/ patients. Most of us think we can empathize with someone when they talk about their constant pain, or lack of confidence in a specific joint or their worry about falls etc – all of which can be truly debilitating. As a practitioner I always found the best way to get onto the patient’s level and truly try and empathize with them was to be as genuine and as understanding as I could and to be honest I always thought I did a pretty good job!
Having suffered a serious injury of my own recently for the first time in my life I began to find it difficult to do things without fear, capability, pain and/ or weakness. The realisation that you can’t carry anything and walk safely and effectively on crutches has been a difficult one and even though I know in the coming weeks and months that it will get better the mental battle to ‘get used to’ being ‘temporarily disabled’ has truly helped me gain empathy for each and every one of the people I see and treat every day. One of the big things I have come to understand is that people need you to know that even the simplest things can truly be hard and that the empathizer needs to share the feeling that it is ok for things to be hard. It isn’t about solving problems, it’s about sharing feelings and the solution after that will be often much easier to find.