It's easy for us to tell our people they need to understand their patients or customers better. Go spend more time with them, ask them questions, get to know them personally...just get to know them better.
But why is it we don't already understand them? Here are a couple key reasons why understanding our patients or customers isn't already happening.
The To-Do List is Addicting. Task lists don't get any shorter by taking time out of your day job to go build observations about your patients or customers. Routines are addicting. In fact if you're coming back with good ideas your to-do list will actually grow. This is uncomfortable.
- We Don't Understand Ourselves. Because we are generally addicted to doing things and not setting aside time for introspective thinking, it's hard to sort out our own emotion -- let alone that of someone else. How often do you think about what you think about?
- Bosses Say One Thing and Mean Another. When bosses suggest their people go understand patients or customers better, they often ignore adjusting the routine work load accordingly (that to-do list again). In effect, bosses say go spend more time with your patients or customers but still get all the other stuff done too. You can create hours can't you?
- It Isn't A Habit. When building empathy for your patients or customers isn't a habit, you end up spending large blocks of time trying to compensate for a long period of not doing it. This exacerbates numbers 1. and 3. above.
- Did I Mention It's Uncomfortable? It takes a lot of vulnerability to start asking questions to people we don't know. The kind of questions which actually have the intent of getting to know someone at a deeper level. What if someone were doing it to me?! I don't want anyone knowing who I really am!
Now you can do something about it!
Put a task on your to-do list or weekly routine to spend more time with patients and customers for the sole purpose of gaining deeper empathy for them.
Start thinking about what makes you actually change your beliefs. When was the last time that happened?
Mutually agree with your supervisor the value and time to spend building empathy for your patients and customers.
Make it something you do each week.
Finally, use your courage to be vulnerable and genuine with others. Let them understand who you really are and they'll be more likely to trust telling you who they really are.