Active Listening Can Improve Care and
By Cherrilynn Bisbano
U.S. Armed Forces veteran and trainer
Active Listening Can Save Time, Improve Understanding of Aging Patients
Hearing comes naturally for most of us, but active listening is a skill that can be developed to improve understanding of patients, parents, partners, and more.
Rewards of Active Listening:
- A complete picture of the message the patient is trying to send,
- More efficient use of time for the physical therapist or case worker, and
- Improved relationships and interactions.
Research shows that people remember less than half of what they hear, and that “listening” is the No. 1 way people know that they are loved and respected. Failing to fully understand a patient’s request can result in wasted time, hard feelings, or worse.
What is active listening? It’s more than hearing. It takes concentration and responding to the patient in a certain way to ensure mutual understanding.
Active listening is so important that many Fortune 500 companies, hospitals and physicians’ offices train their employees in these skills.
You can improve your active listening skills by applying this list of Do’s and Don’ts.
- Don’t prejudge the speaker – Don’t tune out if you find the patient or topic to be of little interest. Some may unconsciously “turn their ears off” if the speaker has a speech impediment such as a stutter of lisp. Pay attention to avoid missing valuable information.
- Don’t rehearse a response – Don’t think about your response before the patient is done talking. Not only will you miss most of the conversation, but you may raise unnecessary or irrelevant questions.
- Don’t listen selectively – Don’t filter out constructive criticism or disturbing news. You’ll end up misinformed.
- Do make the person feel like they are the only one in the room –Focus on your patient with eye contact. Looking around the room can make the patient feel invisible.
- Do use appropriate body language – Lean in toward the patient, while leaving appropriate personal space. This helps minimize distractions and shows the patient you are truly listening. Keep arms unfolded; you look more open to receiving information.
- Do use vocal agreement – Show the patient you are listening by responding “yes” during the conversation. A few responses like this can go a long way.
- Do repeat what you heard – Repetition of the key points is vital to active listening. For example: “I understood you to say (repeat what you understood them to say), is that correct?” Or “Did you mean (state in your own words what you heard) when you said (repeat back what the patient said)?”
Active listening is a skill and takes time to refine. Practice with a friend, spouse, or coworker. If you make mistakes, don’t give up. You will reap the rewards.
“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” – Napoleon Hill, author of “Keys to Success: The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement,” “Think and Grow Rich,” and other books.
Cherrilynn Bisbano is a speaker, teacher, and writer and associate editor at Almost an Author, an online community for new writers. She is a two-time winner of Flash Fiction Weekly. You can find her published in More to Life (MTL) and Christian Rep online magazines. Cherrilynn proudly served in the Navy and Air National Guard, earning the John Levitow Military leadership award. She loves homeschooling her 13-year-old autistic son, Michael Jr. and has been married 16 years to Michael Sr.
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