The Healing Power of Empathy

As human beings we thrive on empathy and understanding. A research study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (study on empathy to help cure the cold faster) looked into the healing power of empathy. This study was conducted with a control group using patients with the common cold and general practitioners. Patients with the common cold went to their general practitioner’s office. The doctors in the control group looked at the patients’ symptoms, told the patients that they just had the common cold, to rest, drink liquids and expect to get better in a week or so. The doctors thanked their patients for coming in and said good-bye.

The trial group scenario was very similar except the general practitioners spent a little bit of extra time being present with their patients. So the scenario looked more like this: the doctor looked at the patient’s symptoms, told her that she had the common cold and then the doctor looked at the patient’s chart and noticed that she was in graduate school. The doctor looked at the patient and said ‘I see you are a graduate student, this must be an especially diffucult time to be sick with your finals due around now.” The patient agreed. Then the doctor wished her luck and said good-bye. The patients with doctors who spent the extra 30 seconds or so being present and resonating with them recovered faster from their colds. This study and many others underline that empathy is not a luxury, but a fundamental part of health and productivity.

How can we be more empathic?  Not my sympathizing with each other but rather by being fully present when we are with another person.  These are skills we can build upon and find extremely useful for ourselves and our relationships.


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