How To Show Empathy | OET Speaking (OET Podcast Ep. #8)

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In this episode of the Swoosh English OET Podcast, UK English teachers Scott and Una discuss the OET Speaking section and, specifically, how to show empathy.

The exam represents real-world scenarios where you must be able to make patients comfortable and calm their anxieties, so this episode provides helpful tips to do just that and much more!

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube


02:46 What is empathy?

It is the ability to understand how someone else feels because you can imagine what it is like to be them aka to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

03:57 Overview and criteria of OET Speaking

OET Speaking is 20 minutes in total with 2 role-plays. Per role play, you are given a 2-minute warm-up conversation with the interlocutor, 3 minutes to study the role play card, and analyze the situation you are dealing with and 5 minutes for the role-play itself.

•  Clinical Communication Criteria

– Relationship-building: demonstrating empathy and respect

– Understanding and incorporating a patient’s perspective

– Providing structure

– Information gathering

– Information giving

09:49 How to show empathy

1. Show that you are putting your patient at ease because they are nervous and anxious right now. Start with a welcome greeting.


“Hello, how are you feeling today?”

“Good morning, my name is nurse [your name], and I will be your charge nurse today.”

• Acknowledge the discomfort immediately:

“I can imagine that you are anxious about your visit today, but I assure you that I am here to support you and assist your recovery.”

2. Backchanneling

Use words and body language to indicate that you are listening because having no reaction sends the message that you do not care.


• Nod your head

• Say “of course, of course”

3. Putting yourself in the patient’s shoes

• Direct empathy: You are able to empathize because you have experienced it yourself.


“I understand your concerns about choosing whether to opt for pain relief during labor. I faced the same decision myself before I was due to give birth.”

Indirect empathy: You have not been in that situation before but you still use language that shows you can empathize with the situation.


“I can’t begin to imagine how you’re feeling to receive this news. Please know we did everything we possibly could to save your family member.”

“I can only appreciate it must be a low priority for you to care for your teeth when you’re homeless. Before you leave, I will give you a toothbrush and toothpaste to use to keep you going for a while.”

4. Use of intonation to show appropriate empathy

You can express empathy by lowering your intonation (falling intonation) versus using a flat or rising tone.


“This must be a very difficult situation for you.”

For more help with all aspects of the OET Exam simply go to

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