“What would you do if this were your father or your mother?”
A wise woman close to me often asks this question when confronted with having to ask an expert for help.
If she takes her mother to the doctor and the doctor offers two or three possible courses of action, she asks the doctor “what would you do if this were your mother?”
When our 2006 Honda Odyssey heads back to Johnson Auto Care, “what would you do if this were your minivan?”
At Back to School Night, she often asks the teacher “what would you do if this were your son or daughter?”
This approach works very well because it taps into the expert’s empathy.
If we can get the expert to remember that this is somebody’s mother, father, son or daughter that we are discussing, it takes them slightly outside their analytical prescription and gives them an emotional connection to the patient, client, etc.
I know this because every once in awhile, a potential client asks me “what would you do if this were your wife that you were trying to bring to the U.S.?”
Questions such as these offer the recipient the opportunity to view the beneficiary of their advice as a living, breathing person and to advise accordingly.
Many times, this approach is used when an expert has offered two or three possible courses of action, each with its own possible benefits and detriments.
When it is a close call, it sometimes helps to have the expert recognize that it is a close call.
Having the opportunity to tap into the expert’s knowledge about prior similar situations and how those prior experiences impact their opinion on what to do in this instance is another reason why this approach is so helpful.
Overall, asking someone to empathize, to see their client/patient as an actual human being and not simply just the next case to work on provides both essential, qualitative information and builds an emotional connection between patient and expert.