Would You Pass the PONS Test?

PONS (Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity) is a test that scores individuals on how well they guess what’s going on emotionally from seeing a two-second snippet of a given scene. Test subjects may be given only someone’s body, their face, or possibly only their voice.

Daniel Goleman writes…

Interestingly, those who score higher on this test tend to be rated as more interpersonally sensitive by their peers or supervisors. Clinicians and teachers get higher job performance ratings. If they are physicians, their patients are more satisfied with their medical care; if they are teachers they are seen as more effective. Across the board such people are liked more.

I find this interesting.
And true.

I thought back to when I accompanied my now deceased father in law to the surgeon who would be operating on his throat. This doctor was said to be one of the best in the country, renowned for his technical skill.

I believe it.

I also believe that with every strength there is an accompanying weakness because no one is strong in every area.

From the first visit with this surgeon, I realized we would have our work cut out for us getting him to stay in the room long enough for our questions to be answered.

At the time, my father in law was already dying and in no condition to advocate for himself, so I did it for him.

And no, I didn’t use brute force to make the doctor stay in the room until I was finished questioning him…nor did I stand in front of the door blockading his only exit (tempting, yes, but I resisted the impulse.)

Rather, I did some assessing the first time around and prepared myself for our next meeting knowing that I had only five minutes tops to express my concerns and get questions out of the way.

I can’t really explain what happened in our next meeting, other than I applied some elements of this PONS approach and cued in on this surgeon’s every move, his facial expression, and what he said.

I acted in response to his mannerisms by asking this physician appropriate and empathic questions about him.

That’s right. I didn’t open our conversation with statements about my father in law’s health.

Instead, for a brief few seconds, I traded places so to speak with this doctor and queried him with caring questions.

To say my approach, “worked” would sound callous and manipulative.

And I’m neither.

From one human being to another, I offered honest words of concern, listened to his replies, and it changed everything.

After that meeting, this doctor genuinely seemed to care more about my father in law and most important, my father in law felt it.

I’ve thought about those brief encounters many times in the past five years and I’m always reminded that no matter what position we hold professionally, we’re always, always real people living and breathing and struggling through life personally.

Lest anyone think I’m being critical of this doctor, I’m not. From where I sat, it seemed to me that over time he grew so overtired, so overworked, so overstressed, that he forgot how much a few good words to a patient can mean to them.

And don’t we all need to be reminded of this important truth?

From one to another, we all need a good kind word.


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