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Fake Empathy in a Clinic Visit

Our attendings and medical schools have tried to shove empathy tricks down our throats. They call it empathy, I call it fake empathy. Real empathy is an emotion and not just the words you utter to a patient.

We are told to verbally repeat a patient’s emotions back to them. To filter out their emotional statements, repackage it into a statement, and utter it to them.

This is called empathy.

But this isn’t empathy, right? Real empathy is being able to share in the feelings of another human being or even animal. Words have little to do with it.

Empathy is seeing your patients worry and suffer and feeling that emotional from their viewpoint. Fake empathy is you saying some shit that makes the patient think that you are empathic.

Fake empathy is meant to shorten the duration of the visit. Real empathy takes a while to develop.

Fake empathy is used to increase patient adherence to medications. Real empathy is used to connect with a creature which feels emotions.

Real empathy is a connection which may or may not develop. Shortcutting it by saying some words which may not feel genuine to you is tricking the patient. And it’s tricking yourself.

Fake empathy is a sales technique. Real empathy can’t be categorized.

Real empathy is genuinely desiring a connection with another person. It’s one of the best ways to have a meaningful, fun, and lively conversation with another human being.

Which kind of empathy do you need in order to be a good doctor? I guess that depends on the kind of medicine you are practicing. Western medicine only requires fake empathy. Enough to protect you from a lawsuit and increase patient adherence to medications.

As a healer, you absolutely need real empathy. Forget the fake empathy.

When I hear fake empathy, as I’ve heard when I’ve seen therapists or doctors in the past, I’ve recognized it right away. I appreciate it – I appreciate the effort they put forth but it was a waste of my time and theirs.

Fake empathy – medical empathy – exhausts me. I feel fake. I feel like I need a shower after the visit. I know how to do it but I wish I never learned it.

Real empathy happens with time, slowly, after you’ve been in the exam room with the patient for a while. After you have gotten past the chit chat. After both of you have let your guards down.