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One Physician’s Guide to a “Feeling Connected” Practice

In health care, we are often conditioned to be emotionally detached–the pace, complexity, and stress can otherwise be overwhelming. Yet, in this Greater Good podcast, Dr. Leif Hass shares his practice for Connection–finding time to see and care deeply for his patients and colleagues each day. This practice not only benefits his patients, but Dr. Hass as well. When he visits a patient, Dr. Hass acknowledges the suffering they are feeling rather than simply focusing on the pain scale of one to 10. By asking about suffering, he is taking both the physical and emotional pain into consideration. Dr Hass has learned that with a thoughtful pause, deep breath, and time to acknowledge someone’s distress, compassionate care is easier to deliver. And he invites the whole team into this approach, beginning with gratitude for the teams’ commitment and effort first, then encouraging them to care for others in this unique yet simple way. 

Dr. Hass goes on to share his “Feeling Connected” practice where he tunes into powerful moments of Connection. He spends time reflecting on one person and on a time he felt a true bond with this person. Dr Hass considers how the Experience felt, what made it memorable, and then he writes about it. Writing it down helps solidify the memory and makes it really stick. Studies show this practice of writing about our bonding Experiences also helps to make us kinder to others. 

Bridging Others: A LEGO Connection

We love discovering and celebrating the extraordinary health care heroes who have an innate gift of being a Connector for and between others. At Cincinnati Children’s, KJ Upshaw a floor tech, noticed that two boys in treatment isolation were both passionate about LEGOs. As he watched each of the boys build and had conversations with them, he innately knew they would love sharing with each other. And he could be the bridge.  

Each day, KJ joyfully shared messages and photos of progress between the two boys as they built in their separate rooms. This brief moment brightened each child’s day. It was a simple and meaningful gesture, above and beyond what was expected of Upshaw, yet an important reminder that every person who enters a patient room is part of the healing journey. The boys were able to meet face to face before leaving and plans for future playdates are underway.

In the Spotlight: Lesley Wilson on Connection

Associate Chief Experience Officer at UC San Diego Health

The Experience Lab (TEL): What does the principle of Connection mean to you and your organization?

Lesley Wilson (LW): Connecting is one of our four foundational Experience Intentions at UC San Diego Health. We use the notion of Connecting as ‘being a bridge’ in our theme and declaration. When we explain and explore this concept with our teams, it’s not only about human Connections with one another, but it’s also about how we show up and Connect with our patients and guests – as well as Connecting to the purpose of the work we are doing. And it always includes empathy and hospitality throughout. Hospitality lives in Connecting.

TEL: How do you apply the principle?


We create actionable and tangible ways to bring Connecting to life throughout our organization. From finding new ways to Connect during rounding, to revisiting our communication framework, to exploring how to best Connect through our email communications — we seek to create bridges. We also focus on “Big E Experience;” everyone’s Experience matters, and we have created “Joy Events” within our Connecting Intention that encourage our team members to interact with one another in thoughtful, creative ways.

We have also created a forum for monthly Experience leadership sessions where we invite leaders to come together in person, despite all the latest technologies available, because we are committed to the human interaction. We value seeing each other and having face-to-face conversations. We focus on topics such as hospitality, partnership, and fostering trust — and we practice techniques like the improv tool ‘Yes, And…’ all with the aim to create a shared understanding. Because once we have a shared understanding, we can bridge to what’s possible.

TEL: What advice do you have for other Lab Partners?

LW: We are still so early in this journey. I think we are very often eager for the next tools or tactics, and yet what we really need is teaching, sharing, and discovering WHY this work is so important. You can ask someone to be a Connector, but it has to tap into a deep human level, that raw emotion and feeling, to make a Connection. Rather than train, let’s aim to inspire people to want to make that Connection — to want to look up and smile — and take the opportunity to be the bridge for others.

Spark Volume 07 – Connection in Action Inside and Outside Health Care
”Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected” – William Plomer

The Conversation Placebo

Can a doctor heal patients just by talking with them? Sounds a little bit dubious, but not so far-fetched when you consider the power of conversation and Connection. In this provocative NY Times article, author Danielle Ofri explores the important role of conversation in the patient-physician relationship and argues that words can create a placebo effect. Connection that takes place when conversation leads the way is more powerful than we know. In fact, face-to-face conversation encourages one of the most important Connections in our industry: the healing Connection. A few years back, Canadian researchers found that the mere act of having understanding and encouraging communication with patients decreased their pain by 55%. The “conversation placebo” relieves suffering and expedites recovery.

This literal application of the conversation placebo can be applied in more environments than just the patient room. When we use Intentional, fully present conversations as a tool to connect with our team members, their anxieties and concerns are alleviated.

Take Time for Tea Time

Tea time did not become a ritual just for an afternoon pick-me-up. In fact, the tea ceremony dates back to the 9th Century and is not focused on the consumption of tea at all. It’s a symbol of hospitality and of creating a positive Experience for your guests. It is a simple and restrained ceremony designed to create harmony. Each movement is carefully considered from both the host’s and guest’s point of view. It is a time set aside to honor the past through tradition and celebrate the present through thoughtful human Connection.

There’s great reciprocity in the tea ceremony – and in the work done in health care. In the hospital or medical office, there is always the server of the tea (the provider) and the individual being served the tea (the patient, guest, or family member). Our organizations should be a symbol of our hospitality as well. We must ensure that the sole purpose of the Connections we make in our organizations is not driven purely by the desire to “fix” whatever is “broken” with our patients and guests. Instead, the goal should be to honor their past, be in the present, and ensure that they have the most positive Experience possible.

What possibilities could be realized when we make the effort, time, and care to sit down with fellow team members for tea? How might we ensure that we are creating the most memorable Experience for them and honoring their needs?

EQ, Not IQ

“According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, emotional intelligence will be one of the top 10 job skills in 2020.” We found this eye-opening stat in a great piece in Fast Company. When we place value in someone’s ability to forge Connections and label that as a strength, we build great leaders and great teams. What once was deemed a “soft skill,” emotional intelligence is increasingly one of our greatest professional assets.

Celebrating you and your team’s ability to LEAD in a way that’s emotionally intelligent helps create meaning in your work each and every day. Emotionally intelligent individuals are not only better at Connecting with others, they’re better at Connecting a problem to the best solution.

When we tune into the way in which we are Connected to everyone and everything around us, we create more compassionate services and servants. Our Connection to the universal “we” helps us find greater meaning in our purpose within our organizations.

Finding New Ways To Connect

This heartfelt community in Newton, Massachusetts has forged more than a tight neighborhood; they’ve embraced the power of true Connection. Driven by the desire to engage with a two-year-old deaf girl, Samantha, who loves to talk and interact with anyone, the neighborhood banded together to learn sign language to bridge the communication gap. The result is exemplary inclusion, immense gratitude from the family, and a more joyful young girl in a beautifully Connected neighborhood

When we are struggling to find a way to engage with our team members, providers, patients or guests, what new approaches or technologies might we try in an effort to build a meaningful Connection?

Great Connection Questions

You’re at a work function. You meet someone new. Instead of the usual, “So what do you do?” there’s a way to elicit a more thoughtful response and unlock insights about someone. 

HBR published 8 questions that open up conversation, create multiple ties, and lead to richer relationships. Next time try starting with:

  1. What excites you right now?  
  2. What are you looking forward to?
  3. What’s the best thing that happened to you this year? 
  4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you?
  5. What do you love most about what you do? (This question is an Experience Lab favorite not yet on HBR’s list.)

These questions have been proven to help team members get along better, enjoy work more, and build meaningful Connections. Studies also show that team members with at least one friend at work have greater work satisfaction. Give the questions a go and see what it sparks.

Share a Cup

How do you get people to Connect and share success stories with each other? You set up a giant cup of coffee on the street and ask people to hop in and chat, of course! It’s incredible what you learn, over, and sometimes inside, a cup.