Daniel H. Pink wrote a fascinating book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005). I have found the work to be extremely relevant to so much of what is happening in our society today. Among the six aptitudes Pink says we must master to be successful in the Conceptual Age is empathy. The other five are design, story, symphony, play, and meaning. (For my prior blog posts in this series, please visit Blog.reliableinsights.com, 2/10/14 through today.)
Considering just empathy, here is what I would offer. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Although knowledge is power, that knowledge can never be unleashed to its full power if the receiver is not open to it. A lack of empathy will block knowledge reception.
In today’s society, as cliché as it might sound, people want to know that other people care. People need people. The best personal and professional relationships always have a strong element of empathy to them.
Pink points out that certain healthcare components can be outsourced or computerized. That is not necessarily a bad thing either. For example, medical doctors following a system of diagnostic rules help ensure treatment consistency, speed, and effectiveness, as Pink explains:
“Rules-based medicine builds on the accumulated evidence of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of cases. It helps ensure that medical professionals don’t reinvent the therapeutic wheel with each patient. But the truth is, computers could do some of this work. What they can’t do . . . is to be empathic.” (pp. 162–163)
Empathy cannot be outsourced or computerized. Therefore, healthcare providers have a vital need to develop and generously offer their skill of empathy. This is not just a “feel good” strategy; something to say because it sounds nice. Rather, it derives from the intangible patient-doctor bond and it translates to a powerful force within the human soul:
“All other things being equal, [in clinical studies] a patient was more likely to get better with an empathic doctor than with a detached one.” (p. 164)
Granted, some people are more skilled or gifted at empathy than others. Nevertheless, that does not excuse any one of us from recognizing its value as we continue to shift from the Information Age into the Conceptual Age.