Tasting the Solution: How to Change Your View of Empathy

by | Nov 6, 2018

The past few months I spent quite a fair amount of time at my dentist’s office and yesterday was a doozy. While I’m sure you guys don’t want to think about the dentist or your experiences at the dentist, yesterday it was a moment of genius when it comes to empathy and I wanted to share it with you. 

My dentist had a dental hygienist in training. While she was trying really hard, she fell short at one critical moment. I was having some fairly serious stuff done so I had all of the tubes and all the picks and all of the machinery in my mouth. At one point, she had to squirt on that horrible, rancid chemical that makes your whole body cringe. Well, she squirted the chemical but what she didn’t do was have the suction cup in the right spot at the right time. My whole body seized up. I must have had a horrific look on my face and Dr. Carpenter could tell what had happened. His suggestion is what I want to share with you. It got me thinking about empathy. What he said to her was, “What you really ought to do is taste a little bit of the solutions…” I thought exactly! Because I guarantee if she had tasted that solution before she squirted it, that suction tube would have been exactly where it needed to be at the exact right time. 

When it comes to empathy, we always talk about walking in each other’s shoes, but Dr. Carpenter’s suggestion was really about tasting what was in my mouth. If you think about this general concept when it comes to the experience your associates are having, or your customers are having, my question would be, “What are they experiencing that you haven’t ‘tasted’ yet?” Not even so much literally, but it was such a good example of something that she probably thought was just going through the motions: putting suction here, squirting this chemical here, I grab this pick then… Instead, add some empathy to it by actually tasting it. It was a perfect example of when you add empathy, behaviors can change. There are my thoughts from you the dentist.


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