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To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

–Tony Robbins

These days there’s a concerted effort in the healthcare industry to improve patient and family experiences. I’ve read many articles and heard many statements that claim people who work in healthcare should take the same approach when treating patients and families as people in the hospitality industry take with guests. Indeed, there is a plethora of literature that attempts to align the best practices of these two industries.

Although I agree with borrowing best practices from other service industries, it’s important to recognize that facilities in the hospitality industry have a very different population from a hospital, physician office, or other healthcare facility. After all, guests in a hotel or any other customers in the service industry are not sick, hurt, dying, or in need of healthcare. These industries have a completely different look, feel, and experience. For example, consider how employees at Chick-fil-A are trained to respond to customers who thank them by saying, “My pleasure.” Now imagine if the members of a healthcare team were to say this to a patient or family member after a procedure, surgery, or even an exam. It would be incredibly awkward, if not disturbing!

That being said, in the spirit of the Ritz Carlton motto, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” In other words, regardless of what industry we work in, we are all people serving people. Whether we are discussing customer experience, patient experience, or employee experience—whether we are customers, patients, caregivers, employees, entrepreneurs, or even royalty—it all comes down to the human experience. We are all humans, with basic human needs.

According to Maslow (1987), all humans have various basic needs. These needs are presented in Figure 1.1.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

One key to meeting all these basic needs—particularly our social needs—is communication. It’s so important to improve the way we converse with each other. Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, once said, “Everyone has an invisible necklace around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Always remember this when interacting with others.” Essentially, Ash committed to focus on basic human needs—needs like love, belongingness, esteem, and even self-actualization—when communicating with others. She believed this was why her business was so successful. When you think about it, it’s just common sense.

Still, as observed by Voltaire (BrainyQuote, n.d.), “Common sense is not so common.” I believe this is because our human experiences are defined by our unique blend of interpretations, beliefs, feelings, values, culture, and morals. How can there be “common” sense when each person’s sense ...

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