Our ability to be good listeners arises from our attitude. An attitude is "a mind-set or feeling about something". (1) It is a social orientation, an underlying inclination to respond to something either favourably or unfavourably. Hence, having the right attitude is a precursor to be an Active Listener.
So, today I am going to talk about listening attitude. While there are many listening attitudes, here I will be focusing on top 3 attitudes (that are relevant to healthcare).
Attitude 1: Listening for the Whole Message
As a caring professional it is our responsibility to listen to the whole message and not just the parts that matter to us. Yes, there are time constraints and it's natural to feel that listening to patients thoroughly is impossible. I have observed that the time constraints and huge workload are forcing many Doctors to interrupt patients in mid-sentence and ask clinical questions ((mostly closed) hastily. Therefore, patients feel that they are not listened to.
Our fact-based logical brain tells us that anything beyond facts is not required to arrive at a diagnosis. Our training tells us that the purpose of medical consultation is just to diagnose and treat properly and anything beyond that (establishing rapport and humane connections) is not required.
Time constraints and busy work loads will be here to stay. We need accept these challenges and learn creative ways of listening to the whole message.
Attitude 2: Being Non-judgmental
Being non-judgemental supports good listening as this conveys that we value and accept all our patients, even when there is disagreement. As Doctors, it is our responsibility refrain from passing judgments when consulting with patients.
When we are present with judgemental attitude, we listen with a filter of our disapproval and bias, and hence our listening is incomplete and ineffective. Being judgemental builds a barrier between the patient and ourselves, preventing us from creating an environment of mutual faith and trust.
Attitude 3: Developing the Desire to Listen
Having a desire to listen is the most essential attitude to have to be effective listeners. It's because without an inner desire, listening can and will not happen. This desire will arise when we are curious and genuinely concerned.
The attitudes I have spoken about are not foreign to us. However, where we usually fall short is in how we practice them: either we do not practice them at all or only employ one of them at a time. For instance, we may be non-judgemental and may not be curious.
Imagine a healthcare system where doctors listen effectively, and patient feel they are seen, heard and understood.
I implore you to defy the challenges and find creative ways of overcoming the listening blocks.
Koppett. K. Training to Imagine; 2nd Edition; p 121.
3rd yr MBBS
Govt medical College, Surat