“Dr. Joe,”an emergency room doctor, was referred by the Chief of Staff in his hospital for his “un-charming” behavior toward other staff members. His excellent record with patients justified a last ditch effort to help him to keep his job.


The report from the Chief stated,“not a week goes by without the doctor losing his temper, blaming and refusing to listen to the point of view of others.” 


“HE’S A DIAGNOSTIC WHIZ”admitted the Doc -in Charge, “but there can be no room for a bully in an emergency room.”


Remember TV’s “Dr. House?”

 I used to fantasize about how I could help that fictional character (a medical genius with no social skills and a drug addiction), if he were my client.

 “Dr. Joe” hated coming for therapy.  He insisted his patients got the best care, at least in part, because of what he called his own  “hot-tempered, cantankerous demands.”

This man was in serious need of some EMPATHY LESSONS.



He showed up, hair-triggered, motivated only to not get fired. His attitude seemed counter to any possibility of real personal growth.

I made a joke about “Dr. House.” He didn’t crack a smile and assured me that he was not a drug addict.


I asked him about his marriage.

“My wife is an angel… ask anyone.” He rolled his eyes.

I guessed he didn’t think she was such an angel.

Who is your best friend?

“A guy from high school. He lives in Boston, at least the last I heard.”

I guess you don’t talk much.

No. We pick up where we left off every year or so when he comes into town to see his family.


“I used to like to go fishing. Now… I just work a lot.”

What about your kids?

They do their own thing.

Aren’t they still in elementary school?

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Dr. Joe,” I said, Do you know why you are here?

“I don’t want to lose my job… that’s why.  Sorry Doc… I’m just being honest.”

Do you want to live a long life?

“Yes, if it is pain free.”

He smiled… a good sign. Maybe I was getting somewhere.

I explained that it was people who had supportive relationships at work and loving relationships at home who lived the longest and happiest lives.

Then I challenged him: You ARE obligated to be here for twelve sessions…

“I never thought I’d be a a psychologists office…”

I spoke about the benefits of becoming a bit more “charming”.  He grunted. I suggested he read my last blog entry:


I also suggested he read Dale Carnegie’s book, “HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE”.

It was no surprise that he took his homework seriously. A scholar, for sure, he did like to read.

During the mandatory twelve sessions, he wasn’t perfect… but he showed some signs of emerging civility:


  • Listening better without interrupting.
  • Tuning into the non-verbal communications with the people he interacted with.
  • Smiling more.
  • Learning to empathize with people with whose ideas he didn’t agree.

The hardest task for him was remembering to treat others NOT as he would like to be treated but HOW they would like to be treated.


Finally, at the end of our time together, I introduced him to what have been called the “THREE MAGIC PHRASES OF EMPATHY,”to be used, of course, when truthful.


  1. “I get it.”
  2. “That makes sense”
  3. “Of course you feel that way.”

P.S. I never met “Dr. Joe’s” wife but she called to thank me.

PPS. “Dr. Joe” challenged me to write this blog entry! (Otherwise I would never have done it)



Thanks For Visiting,

Email Dr. Linda

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