(6) People who are unable to understand hidden meanings and take words
at their face value.
d. Again, everyone occasionally lets his mind wander when he should be
listening. As a health care provider, you cannot assume that everything you say will be
heard and understood. A patient (or a family member of a patient) who is especially
tired or nervous may not initially comprehend instructions or explanations. You must be
prepared to patiently repeat things if you suspect that they were not understood.
e. As a health care provider, you must also be aware of your own listening
habits. Becoming a good listener takes concentration, effort, and practice, but you can
improve your listening skills if you work at it.
If a patient is seeking information or needs a direct answer to a medical question,
you can normally answer him or obtain the answer for him. But there are occasions
when you must guide him in finding his own solution. For example, if a patient comes to
you with a personal problem, you may be tempted to offer suggestions or
encouragement. But, often, the most helpful thing you can do is to be a good listener
and to show concern. By doing so, you enable the patient to come to his own
conclusions. As you study the following components of active listening, think about your
own listening habits.
a. Look the patient in the eyes as he talks.
b. As you listen patiently, concentrate on what is being said. By giving the
patient your full attention, not only are you hearing more, but you are also
communicating to him that he is not alone, that you are there to think this problem
through with him.
c. As the patient speaks, think about what he must be feeling. Sometimes, as a
listener, you must cut through layers of words to get to the real message. You must
concentrate not only on the words, but the hidden meanings behind them. Look at the
following hypothetical statements from patients, and imagine what they might have been
feeling as they spoke.
(1) "What a coincidence! That man they just took off to the operating room
had a pain in his side too!"
(I'm afraid I have the same problem.)
(2) "Gee, I guess you get pretty tired of all the people who come in for
treatment just because it's free."
(I'm afraid you're not taking my illness seriously.)