Empathy Is The Key To Business Success With Dr. Glen Fleischhacker
We all need empathy. It’s what connects us, makes us feel seen, and helps us understand the different experiences of humanity. Empathy is an emotional investment that can help us appreciate what others are feeling and offer support on a deeper level. But why do we need empathy when it comes to business?
You’ve probably heard stories of managers who can’t relate to the team’s struggles (and vice versa), employees that don’t understand a customer’s frustrations, or a company as a whole that’s perceived to be careless about a customer’s feelings. The one thing they’re missing? Empathy.
It turns out, lacking empathy can lead to loss of business — among a plethora of other issues. Customers want to work with people who are understanding, invested, and can put themselves in others’ shoes to really recognize the root of the issue. If they don’t receive empathy, they’re likely to take their money elsewhere.
Dr. Glen Fleischhacker has experienced this lack of empathy firsthand from a business, and he knows that’s not how he wants to treat his own patients. As an anesthesiologist, it’s vital that Dr. Fleischhacker uses empathy to provide the best experience possible. In his line of work, empathy goes a long way to ease a patient’s fears and give them a comfortable, pain-free visit. And, in Dr. Fleischhacker’s experience, empathy makes a client feel so comfortable that they’re willing to return again and again and refer business back to you.
What else has Dr. Fleischhacker learned about empathy, and how can you apply it to your own business?
Listen to this episode of The Judd Shaw Way Podcast with Judd Shaw featuring Dr. Glen Fleischhacker, Anesthesiologist at Northwell Health’s Plainview Hospital. Together, they talk about the importance of empathy and how you can apply it to your business (and life!)
IN THIS EPISODE:
- [1:35] Judd Shaw introduces his guest, Dr. Glen Fleischhacker, and the topic of the day: showing empathy
- [4:05] Why is empathy important in the medical field?
- [9:42] How Dr. Fleischhacker uses empathy with a variety of patients
- [13:31] Why most patients are scared of anesthesia — and the strategies Dr. Fleischhacker employs to address these concerns
- [17:07] The differences between empathy and sympathy
- [21:40] Dr. Fleischhacker discusses a time when he wasn’t shown empathy
- [23:52] How empathy can bring in more referrals for your business
Hi everyone, I’m Judd Shaw. Welcome to the launch of our first episode of my podcast, The Judd Shaw Way. This podcast season’s 10 episodes focuses on delivering an excellent customer service. Many people consider themselves entrepreneurs. I like to consider myself an enterpreneur, understanding that a great client experience starts with how our company treats our clients. I’ll be hosting industry experts, providing proven customer service pointers, as well as some secret inside tips to creating unforgettable wow moments for your customers. At the end of each episode, I’ll provide our contact information and I welcome any of you to send questions or comments. Be sure to ask us to send you some merch from my personal injury law firm, Judd Shaw Injury Law. You’ll also be entered to receive a free copy of my book coming out titled The Judd Shaw Way.
Today I’ll be speaking with Dr. Glen Fleischhacker about showing empathy. As you’ll come to hear Dr. Fleischhacker is seasoned and experienced professional in the medical field. I hope you enjoy this discussion.
I’m here with my guest, Dr. Glen Fleischhacker. Welcome, doctor.
It’s good to see you.
Likewise, man. How do you feel about being the first guest on my podcast?
I’m looking forward to it. I’m honored and I hope I set the bar high for all your future guests.
I’m sure you will. Doctor, you’re an anesthesiologist for many years now, serving New York and surrounding areas in private practice, working within the hospital setting, but I’m sure there’s a better background you could give the listeners about yourself.
Sure. Yeah, I’m a board certified anesthesiologist working at a community hospital, part of the Northwell system on Long Island. I’ve been an attending anesthesiologist there for the past 26 years with a four year residency. So that’s 30 years of doing this.
Excellent. And I described to my listeners, after 26 years you’re certainly a seasoned and experienced expert in showing empathy, particularly in the medical field. We often hear about the need for empathy. No doubt you’ve witnessed this in one form or another.
The manager who can’t relate to the struggles of his team and vice versa, an employee not being able to relate to customers frustrations or issues. Even a company as a whole that’s perceived to be careless about how the customer feels about their level of service or the product itself.
But if we really want to connect with our customer’s perspective and feelings, why do we often fail to do that for them? Frankly, I think many companies aren’t willing to invest in those resources for too many. And even when we’re motivated to show empathy, doing so isn’t really easy.
So let’s get to it. Showing empathy, in my own experience, doctor, when it comes to sales and customer service, empathy really plays a huge role. Dealing with customers, especially if they have a problem or a complaint can be solved much faster and easier by using empathetic statements, being patient and showing consideration. So doctor, can you tell us about how you use empathy in your job and its importance?
Yeah, sure. My patients come to the hospital, awaiting surgery, awaiting the anesthetic for that. And invariably, everybody is nervous or anxious to a certain extent. I’ve been there myself, on the other end. And my job, aside from just putting to sleep and waking them up, is to give them the best experience possible.
I want them to be comfortable and confident preoperatively, treat them appropriately intraoperatively and hopefully give them a good experience afterwards where they’re comfortable, pain free, hopefully not nauseous or vomiting and get to go home quickly. So you do the best you can to put yourself in their shoes when you’re speaking to them and allay all of their concerns.
So ultimately, what is the goal between, for instance, you who try every day to use empathy for your patients, as opposed to somebody who doesn’t?
I see it myself every day where we have some junior associates who just haven’t had the experience that I’ve had or some of my other senior colleagues, where they just don’t have the experience to appreciate what the patient is experience or going through, or the level of anxiety and that we can impart to them hopefully and improve their ability to communicate with their patients and develop the empathy that you need to have in this job.
You’re not born with all of that knowledge. You have empathy, but you have to cultivate it and nurture it and live and experience doing your job and hopefully develop the ability, through trial and error sometimes, the ability to speak to your patient and figure out what they need to hear to make them comfortable and ready to go.
So you’d agree that this is a learned skill. We all probably are born with the ability to show empathy, but as you noted from a junior associate to a senior guy doing this for a very long time, you learn this over time. It’s not something you’re just an expert with and you have it or you don’t. You’re applying your experience. You’re applying what you learn about the result of how you’re applying empathy or whether you are successfully showing empathy. It sounds like that’s a learned thing over time.
No doubt, no doubt. Whether it be personally or professionally as you live and encounter different experiences through a life we’re able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I mean, you’ve lived it yourself, in some cases.
Right. I have to ask you, what’s the background of your last name? It’s spelled, if I get this correct, F-L-E-I-S-C-H-H-A-C-K-E-R. Did I get that right?
Wow. All right. So what’s the background of that name?
Well, it’s from the German Austria, Austrian area. It’s really two words, fleisch, which means meat and hacker, which means hack or chop. So I believe it comes from a butcher background.
It’s probably very good that you have those combined as an anesthesiologist, instead of Dr. Hacker.
Yes. And it’s a good thing I’m not a surgeon because anybody who understands the meaning of the name certainly doesn’t want a butcher working on them, right.
That’s right. Wow. So making a dinner reservation over the phone, I’d imagine you either say something like Dr. Fly, or you have to ultimately go through the spelling multiple times. What do you do? What’s the secret?
I really cut it down. There’s just too many letters or I use my wife’s maiden name, which is only four letters.
See, again, it’s a learned skill over time.
That’s it. Live and learn.
Doctor, to feel and display empathy, it’s not necessary to share the same experiences or circumstances as others. I mean, sometimes we just don’t have that experience. For instance, I have a client who may have been in a flipped over vehicle after an accident. The car caught on fire and ultimately they had to go to the hospital. That has not ever … I’ve never been in that situation.
However, I have other clients who have. And so my being able to show empathy is not based on the fact that I have those experience or I shared that circumstance, but rather through my experience dealing it with other clients, as well as being able to understand certain phrases or statements that are putting myself in their shoes, right. It’s like an attempt to better understand the other person by getting to know their perspective. So how do you use empathy with so many different type of patients that come to you? For instance, some may have a fear, a different type of procedure, their history, their medical condition, and so many other variables.
Well, again, it comes down to experience. So you have to be able to read your patient. The specific procedure is not, to me, as important as the fact that they’re coming for an anesthetic. Certainly, you add the procedure into the equation. Someone’s probably going to be, have a higher level of anxiety if they’ve never had surgery before and they’re going for a major surgery versus someone who’s had multiple surgeries, maybe something even major in the past and now is having something relatively minor.
And those patients are easy. They’re like, “Hey doc, let’s just do this. I love anesthesia. Let’s go to sleep. It’s the best sleep I ever had. I get through this fine every time.” And then you have the flip side where you have a patient who’s like, “Hey, I’m coming in for this big procedure. It’s the first time I’ve ever had it. I’m really nervous.”
So again, as you discussed with your example, I have taken care of thousands of patients over the years, and you use that database to determine as best you can, as quickly as you can, what you think your patient needs. And from an empathetic standpoint, you’ve been there before, whether you’ve had it yourself, either anesthesia or that specific procedure, you can certainly relate to their concerns and target your treatment of them and your discussion with them to hopefully allay their concerns and give them confidence in what they’re about to experience.
Is there a difference between talking to a child? I mean, you’re even a parent of two amazing kids. Is there a difference between talking to a minor or a young kid, as opposed to talking to somebody older who can understand perhaps a little more of what you’re talking about?
Yeah. Well, at that point, you’re juggling, you’re at the bedside, you got the kid sitting in the stretcher on your left, who’s five years old, going for their tonsils. And you got mom and dad looking over your shoulder as you’re examining them. And then you’re talking to mom and dad in one language, and you’re talking to the kid in another language.
Meaning that you’re speaking to a five year old, you got to speak to a five year old explaining to him only what they need to know without getting them more scared. They’re already scared stiff. They’re starving. They haven’t had anything to eat or drink. They’re in a strange place. Someone’s going to stick an IV in them, maybe, maybe not. And then you got mom and dad who have all their anxieties. They got their beautiful baby ready to go into surgery. They can’t be with them. It is that whole dynamic you’re trying to manage.
It really is such a good point, right? That if you’re not using empathy correctly or well, you can actually make the situation worse.
Oh, you can definitely. These situations get out of control sometimes. I mean, it’s a snowball effect, and one thing’s playing off another. It doesn’t even have to be a kid. It could be a demented elderly parent going for a hip fracture. And then you got the annoying daughter from Woodbury who thinks she knows everything. You’re trying to talk to her and then mom’s not listening and you’re trying to get a history. And then the patient’s getting anxious and crawling out of bed.
Mom’s trying to put you back in bed and you trying to think history. It’s just, it’s like, “What’s going on here?” So you’re managing a lot. You’re juggling a lot. With a kid, the kid’s nervous. You got to get consent from the parents. You got to tell them all the risks, to a certain extent, while not letting the kid hear it. There’s a lot of back and forth that you’re trying to manage. You’re whispering, you’re trying to speak to this one, one way. You speak to this person another way. You try not to get the parents too nervous, but you got to tell them the truth. You got to learn how to play it. Just tell them enough, I guess.
Right. Yeah. Right. Just be an active listener, understand the issue and address it an empathetic way that shows all parties that it’s going to be okay. Otherwise, I understand that it could just become much worse. Between all these thousands of patients, have you found a common thread between what they are most concerned with in undergoing anesthesia?
Yeah. I ask my patients all the time, particularly the ones that actually verbalize that they’re scared, and a lot of times they’re more scared of the anesthesia than they are the surgery. They’ll say, “Listen, you’re the one who scares me. I’m very concerned about this and you’re the most important person in the room.” You hear that a lot and I’d simply ask them, “What are you most nervous about?”
And it varies, I mean, some say, “I don’t want to feel anything during the surgery.” Some will say, “I’m worried about waking up in pain”. Statistically, actually the most common concern amongst patients is the fear of vomiting after surgery, for whatever reason, something that I didn’t even appreciate. And we saw these studies and you hear these patients say it and we reassure them that they get medication to prevent that. Although it’s not 100% effective, you, most of the time, it’s a non-issue for them. And if they do have an issue, we’ll treat it quickly afterwards.
So again, tying this in with what you’ve been discussing, somebody who’s just starting out may not know that vomiting is a common fear among patients who are about to undergo anesthesia, as opposed to you who have now heard it time and time and time again. And although you may not have vomited in your situation of undergoing any surgery or anesthesia, but have learned how to address that concern, how to step in their shoes and make them feel more comfortable about that anxiety that they’re feeling.
Yeah, sure. Because one, although they may not even verbalize it sometimes, you learn to tailor your discussion with them or your summation at the end, a lot of patients won’t even mention it. They may come across as not even anxious, but I address it anyway because I know it’s a common concern. And when I summarize at the end of my discussion with them, I say, “Listen, you’re going to get pain medicine, you’re going to get nausea prevention medication. You’re going to wake up comfortable and feel good and whatever does bother you, if anything, which we don’t anticipate, we’re going to treat for you quickly”. So that really calms them down and they’re grateful for that. So again, the experience of doing tens of thousands of cases and tailoring your technique over the years, you learn what is of a concern to the patient and you address it ahead of time.
So if that can be applied in your personal life as well, there are difference between bad golfers and good golfers. You’ve been playing golf for so many years, maybe 30 plus years. Why have you not been able to apply your bad shots and your prior golfing skills to become better at it?
That’s a low blow. Well, as we age and our physical abilities deteriorate, we have a built-in excuse not to get better over time, despite trying harder. So I would have to chalk it up to age.
I like, doctor, that you have an excuse for it, which is why anytime I play with you, you take so many strokes from me. Doctor, what’s the difference between empathy and sympathy?
Again, not being a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but my interpretation, my understanding of it is that empathy is an emotional investment in your feeling with the person that you’re dealing with, where you, as they say, put yourself in their shoes or have actually experienced what they’re experiencing and can appreciate what they’re feeling and feel with them. As opposed to sympathy, which is acknowledging that they’re going through a struggle or have a concern and you say that you’re concerned about them, you’re sorry for their struggles, but you don’t have that same emotional investment.
I know you lost your father recently and you were very close to him. Doctor, in that experience, what would be the difference between your experience with people who are showing empathy and sympathy?
Great question. We, of course, we received a tremendous amount of sympathy cards, right? You go to the card store and they have the sympathy card section in the rack of cards. They don’t have the empathy card section, right. And the cards are pre-printed, “I’m sorry for your loss. Sincere condolence.” That’s sympathy to me as defined by the card itself, right. But then those who knew my dad and knew us and wrote something extra below the pre-printed type, “We are sorry for your loss. We lost our dad last year as well. I know what you’re feeling. I know what you’re going through.” That’s the empathetic portion of the card, the handwritten stuff. So that’s a pretty good example. I like that example.
I do too. I find that sympathy appears to be more dismissive to listening or understanding their situation, showing that you care, having positive statements that relate to empathy, right. So the difference would be, “I’m sorry, your father is in a better place now.” To me, how ridiculous can that be when the only best place he could be is with you, right. As to empathy, which are some statements saying, “I can understand how difficult this may be.” Or, “My dearest prayers and thoughts are with you during this difficult time.”
Yeah, no doubt. I mean, empathy definitely fuels connections between people. Sympathy is fine. Sympathy is good. Sometimes you don’t have the same experience that they’ve had or you can’t put yourself in their shoes. And it’s nice to get the acknowledgement. Now, listen, we have peripheral friends that have sent the sympathy cards. I’m grateful that they acknowledged that I was going through a struggle, my family was going through a struggle, but true relationships, I mean, closer relationships, not true relationships, but closer relationships you build that empathetic bond and that’s important. It takes it to another level.
That’s a great example. I find even in my business, whether customers are calling about a problem or a complaint about their situation, they can’t get in with the doctor. They are having problems with their insurance company and we remind them how we will deal with everything to make their life easier so they can concentrate on what’s most important, which is getting back to their health.
Our clients then feel heard, they feel respected. They feel understood. And we really are able to deliver a first class client experience through empathy, acknowledging customer concerns or issues or anxiety or fear, right? Even some of our clients that have to go under other procedures that they have never experienced will call us about that procedure. And when we show empathy, it really is essential to great communication, and most importantly, great service.
Doctor, have you ever personally, maybe in your professional life, dealt with a situation where you felt in one time there was no empathy or acknowledgement as opposed to dealing with the same issue at another time where the complete opposite had occurred?
Maybe a good example is something recent. Again, with my dad passing maybe on a personal level, not a professional level, but I had to deal with state attorneys and deal with finalizing his estate issues. And I have no knowledge in that area. I called a firm, was unable to get them on the phone after multiple tries over a period of two weeks, ultimately got a paralegal to call me back.
Very dismissive of my concerns, took for granted that I understood the processes and the language, the law language, which I don’t follow as a layperson too well. And just a lot of assumptions being made that I knew what to do and was very dismissive and said, “Hey, why do you need to do that? Why don’t you just go do this?” And I really need to be walked through it.
And then simultaneously had a call out to another firm and got a call back within hours where the woman happened to be very receptive, very … took the time, really listened to my situation, had recently lost her mom. So was, in this case, very empathetic, could understand where I was coming from, directed me quickly and clearly to what I needed to do and solved my issues very, very quickly. And I will be referring anybody in the future to that woman over the first firm that I tried to reach out to, for obvious reasons.
Look at what a big difference empathy in the workplace has done. Not only for how you felt, but the fact that now this company, the professional service, the individual, the owner has now almost a walking cheerleader, because they felt good about their situation. It was so positive that they would refer other patients, other clients, other customers to that business because of that experience.
Absolutely. It was so easy, too. I mean, it took less than five minutes of her time. Whereas, the other experience took over two weeks to be dissatisfied. It took me less than five minutes to be very satisfied.
The outcome of good empathy, good connection between your patients, just like with my clients, really can result in a very rewarding experience when some other client or some other patient comes back or you’re seeing for the first time and lets you know that a prior client or prior patient referred them to you, most likely based on that experience.
It happens all the time. I mean, our nurses are there at the bedside with us when we’re talking and when they inevitably need something done or have a family member, they’re like, “Hey, listen.” I mean, they come up to me and they say, I mean, either it be me or they’ll … most often they’ll have negative requests. They’re called negative requests. It’s not that they want someone specific. They don’t say, “Hey Glen, will you take care of my husband? He’s coming in next week for X, Y, or Z.”
They’ll say, “Hey, man. Hey, Glen, listen, you’re making the schedule next week. Please don’t put so and so in the room with them,” because they see the bedside manner. They see the intraoperative care, they see how they come out. Not that again, everybody goes to sleep and wakes up. I mean, it’s the little nuances that make the difference. They’re disconnected, they’re distracted, whatever. They’re just not in the moment.
And so it’s always flattering to get a request and it goes beyond that, Judd. I mean, obviously things are about dollars and cents. These are businesses. Also, we submit surveys, Press Ganey surveys and things and every customer, every patient that comes into our hospital gets sent a survey by my company that asks them about their experience with their anesthesiologist. They’re asked very specific questions.
“Did they explain the anesthetic? Did they ask you if you had any more questions? Did you have nausea post op?” And we get, every month or every six weeks, we get our statistics and it’s compared to the group at large. So it’s important from that standpoint too. It’s not just giving the customer or the patient a good experience that day, but it also reflects upon you and your company as far as dollars and cents goes, right.
Doctor, you’re a twin, correct?
Interestingly, you obviously went to the same school, high school, right. I believe you went to the same college?
Yes, we did.
You went to the same medical school.
Yes, we did.
And you graduated with the same type of degree. Your brother is also an anesthesiologist, isn’t he?
All right. So you’re same in every respect, most importantly, who’s better looking?
My wife would say that I am.
… I think we look exactly alike.
Well in the end, isn’t it most important what she thinks?
Happy wife, happy life, right.
Doctor, you really have shed so much light on empathy, particularly in the workplace, how it’s so important, why it’s so important, what result it obtains understanding that your patients or my clients or other businesses customers, the impact of empathy really does have not only effect on them, but also on your own business.
And doctor, again, I can’t thank you so much. I think you set the bar really high. It’s going to be very difficult for all of my following guests on any episode to even come close to this podcast. Doctor, thanks so much for your time.
You’re welcome, Judd. Stay well.
Again, I’m Judd Shaw and this is the podcast, The Judd Shaw Way.
🎙️ MEET YOUR HOST 🎙️
Name: Judd B. Shaw
What he does: Judd founded Judd Shaw Injury Law™ (JSIL) and serves as the firm’s Brand Chief. He founded the firm on the premise that clients come first. Over the years, the success he attained for his clients helped JSIL grow significantly. Judd’s clients are not just another number to him or his law firm.
Company: Judd Shaw Injury Law™
🎙️ FEATURED GUEST 🎙️
Name: Dr. Glen Fleischhacker
Short Bio: Dr. Glen Fleischhacker is an Anesthesiologist affiliated with Plainview Hospital at Northwell Health. He has three decades of experience in the field, serving New York and surrounding areas. Dr. Fleischhacker graduated with honors from the New York Institute of Technology’s New York College of Osteo Medicine and received his certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology.
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