Empathy. Useful or not? (part 2)

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Dr Mark HassedA few weeks ago I wrote a post concerning empathy.

Empathy is the situation where you feel what the patient is feeling. My post took the view that empathy is useless and often harmful.

Here’s another reason empathy is harmful — it leads to minimisation. Dentists see a serious situation but they’re so worried about upsetting the patient that they send a weak, wishy-washy message. For example:

Instead of saying: “You have severe gum disease and if you don’t treat it you will lose your teeth” they say “Your gums are a bit soft.”

Instead of saying: “There’s a big hole between your back teeth” they say “You have a tiny spot of decay.”

Instead of saying: “You need to give up soft drink or you will destroy your teeth” they say “You need to cut down a little.”

There are many more examples I could give but I’m sure you get the idea.

Are you ever guilty of minimisation?

If so you might want to think about it. You’re not doing your patients any favours.

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One thought on “Empathy. Useful or not? (part 2)

    Crumpet said:
    April 18, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Very true Mark. Also one of the hardest things for a “caring” dentist to overcome; especially with increasing age and the risk that you perceive that you may lose the patient to someone who is more empathetic than you are.

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