The reason we have two ears and one mouth, it’s said, is because we should spend twice as much time listening as talking!
But with the growing convenience of technologies that demand or divert our attention, it often feels harder to take the time to really listen and create and sustain important relationships – whether it is doctor-patient, employer-employee, parent-child, or husband-wife.
Yet connection matters. Relationship matters. Love matters. These are all dynamics that stem from listening and being listened to. Increasingly, the medical community is paying attention to the role listening can play in how to care for a patient.
What is it about truly listening to another person’s story – pain, sadness, joys and fears – that results in being better able to help someone find health?
In one way, it seems so obvious. If a person does not feel listened to, how can he feel cared for and important enough to be worth a health professional’s time and attention?
Some are pointing out that the current medical system, in the economy of time constraints, has shifted from the art of listening to the patient – the soft data – to craving the hard data that technology offers.
Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, Director at Harvard Medical School cautions ‘The pill has become known as the treatment, and the relationship – the respectful, careful listening – has become everything else.’ Wise doctors and nurses, he avers, have found their ‘everything else’ – respect, attention, comfort, empathy, touch – often does the lion’s share of medical care.
We all want to feel that, when we need answers to health problems, we will be listened to and can trust that our needs will be met. This may account for the rise of visits to alternative care sites — massage, acupuncture or chiropractic, for example — where patient surveys indicate the provider is willing, even eager, to listen to the patient.
If, in our pursuit of health and well-being, we haven’t found that connection, that trust, there is another source we can turn to that isn’t dependent on the vagaries of human personalities, jam-packed appointment calendars or the economics of the health industry.
And to find it, we have to be prepared to sharpen our own listening skills.
The Psalmist states: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ That’s wise counsel on how to become a better listener!
It can also have a healing effect on the body, as evidenced in a published account of a man who found he was losing his hearing. Bob turned to the Bible and looked up references to hear/hearing. As he sought more spiritual understanding, he realized he needed to be attentive to listening to God.
It also became clear to him that he was doing all the talking and not enough listening, especially in his dealings with his co-workers. Bob made an effort to put aside voicing his own point of view and more humbly let personal opinion dissolve by listening for ideas from the divine source of intelligence. At work he also started to listen to other people’s ideas without judgement. Gradually his hearing returned to normal. He felt this was a result of his day-to-day trust in this divine intelligence and ongoing commitment to listen better.
The prophet Isaiah explained the art of Divine listening perfectly with this promise: ‘And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee saying, this is the way, walk ye in it’. (Isa 30:21.
Each one of us naturally wants to know that someone is listening, that we can trust a listening ear to hear and respond to our health concerns/needs. Infinite Mind [God] knows our needs, so we don’t need to do much talking; listening is the connection.
As a community blogger for Metroland news editions throughout Ontario, you can read my articles on Simcoe County News.