Listening: The Lost Art

Premier Pulse     December 2022

1134192644By Andre Harris, MD, chief medical officer, Atrium Medical Center

Have you ever been in mid-conversation with someone and seen them take out their phone and start scrolling?  Or have you ever been in a conversation with your spouse, and they fell asleep while you were in mid-sentence?  I’ll admit that I have been an offender in both scenarios. These scenarios are some of the quickest ways to show someone you are not listening. If you look at our HCAHPS questions in both the nursing and physician domains, there are questions surrounding listening. 

Why Is Listening Such A Lost Art?

One reason is that plenty of people like to hear themselves speak but fewer like to listen to what is being said. Communication is the ability to share ideas. Too many times, we make communication equivalent to talking when this could not be further from the truth. Communication is sharing and receiving ideas and concepts.  The receiver must thoroughly understand what was said, or the communication loop did not happen. 

A line in the movie "Avatar" encapsulates this concept.  In the world of Pandora, there is a tribe of inhabitants called the Na’vi.  One of the statements that the Na’vi say is, “I see you.”  The statement has nothing to do with vision but everything to do with understanding.  When the Na’vi says, “I see you,” they’re saying I understand what you have said and how you are.  The core of being able to see a person is based on listening.

What Does Listening Promote?

  • relationship building
  • learning
  • respect
  • a culture of communication
  • true conflict resolution
  • open-mindedness
  • progress
  • improved decision making

How Do You Show Active Listening?

  • Make eye contact
  • Make appropriate facial expressions
  • Ask questions
  • Don’t interrupt (i.e., don’t think about your rebuttal; soak in the statement made by the other person first)
  • Paraphrase (i.e., when you restate what was said, it shows the other person you listened)

Our patients are yearning for a health care system that sees them. They want to be heard and understood; this is the first step toward “Inspiring Health” in our community.

Back to the December 2022 issue of Premier Pulse

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