In today’s fast paced world, communication is more important then ever, yet we seem to devote less and less time to really listening to one another.
Genuine listening has become a rare gift that builds relationships, solves problems, ensures understanding, resolves conflicts, and improves accuracy.
Listening also means fewer errors and less wasted time when doing tasks.
Listening builds friendships and careers, and saves money and marriages.
The Chinese character for listening (ting) is a composite calligraphy that eloquently express that listening is more than just attending to sounds, but involves many senses.
1: Listen with your ears to what is being said (primordial).
2: Listen with our eyes (make eye contact).
In Western cultures, eye contact is considered a basic ingredient of effective communication. When we talk, we look each other in the eyes.
Put aside papers, books, the phone and other distractions. Look at people, even if they don’t look at you.
We exchange a great deal of information about each other without saying a word.
When face to face with a person, you can detect enthusiasm, boredom, or irritation very quickly from the expression around the eyes, the set of the mouth, the slope of the shoulders. These are clues you can’t ignore. When listening, remember that words convey only a fraction of the message.
3: Listen with your mind: Give undivided attention (do not be somewhere else).
Be mindful of distractions, like background activity and noise or most frequently your own thoughts, feelings, or biases. A common way of being away is judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things you are being told. As soon as you indulge in a judgmental path, you’ve compromised your effectiveness as a listener. Listen without jumping to conclusions.
4: Listen with your heart; try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
To experience empathy, you have to put yourself in the other person’s place and allow yourself to feel what it's like to be her/him at that moment. This is not an easy thing to do. It takes energy and concentration. But it is a generous and helpful thing to do, and it facilitates communication like nothing else does.
We previously have shown that health coaching among individuals with chronic lung disease discharged from the hospital, decreased readmissions and improved quality of life sustainably(1). We recently published a qualitative study investigating and trying to understand which part of health coaching was the most beneficial (2).
The results were striking and consistent. The most important factor in the health coaching was the kind and mindful communication between the patient and the coach. The listening skills of the health coach, a foundation of every health coaching training, really paid off.
In the context of apps and new technology, attentive and kind listening still seem to be a key ingredient for a care that heals.
- Benzo R, Vickers K, Novotny PJ, Tucker S, Hoult J, Neuenfeldt P, et al. Health Coaching and COPD Re-hospitalization: a Randomized Study. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine. 2016;8:8.
- Benzo RP, Kirsch JL, Hathaway JC, McEvoy CE, Vickers KS. Health Coaching in Severe COPD After a Hospitalization: A Qualitative Analysis of a Large Randomized Study. Respir Care. 2017;62(11):1403-11. Epub 2017/10/25. doi: 10.4187/respcare.05574. PubMed PMID: 29061910.