People who come to see trial lawyers are often angry, very angry. My experience has born this out. After gathering the facts, I would immediately begin my legal analysis and recommend a course of action. But a curious thing would happen. The clients couldn’t hear me. They would continue their harangue —we’re right, they’re wrong, look what they’ve done to me, they need to be taught a lesson, it’s a matter of principle, I want them to pay me at least a million dollars, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. But the clients were not at fault. Often, their anger was a natural outgrowth of what had actually happened, but I was too insensitive to know what they really needed. And it wasn’t just a matter of being heard; I’ve heard other lawyers say, “Yeah, I hear you, I hear ya,” and quickly proceed with their own legal analysis only to get the same result I did. No—what the clients needed was to know their energy was being transferred to me as their champion, that I was going to represent them with close to the same zeal for their cause that they themselves would have.
Just as lawyers need to understand their clients’ needs in order to be the most effective advocate, physicians also need to understand that patients have similar needs. Patients want to know that physicians actually care about them as people, not just as “a case.” Patients want to know their healers actually take in that they’re in real pain, not merely “discomfort;” patients want authentic empathy.
Knowing what clients or patients really want in the moment is an essential step in truly satisfying their needs. If they’re not convinced we “get it,” it will be difficult for them to trust that we’ll actually serve their interests.
While many professionals intellectually know the importance of “active listening” and showing empathy, they still haven’t received proper training to optimize their client or patient relationships. As a result, professionals’ efforts can come across as stilted or disingenuous, only complicating their relationships. Nevertheless, these skills can be taught; professionals can be empowered to gain the client or patient’s trust, to more deeply understand what they really want, to meet or exceed their clients’ and patients’ expectations, and to become true healers.