“We are blessed with two ears and one mouth. Perhaps we should consider listening twice as much as we speak.”—Anonymous-
A while back I was co-coaching with a mentor on "Life Skills for Personal Excellence". The lesson for the week was "Listening-Responding" (as opposed to 'hearing - reacting' as many of us have been programmed to do). I come from a large Italian-Irish family, not only to we tend to be the loud family at times, but we can become nuclear reactors when we don't listen to each other.
I took this lesson very seriously, and to me to lead means to 'go first'. So in order to teach this lesson, I had to be sure I was first living it myself. (it is a lesson worth mastering)
Pam, a fairy new patient, was in my dental chair. It was her 3rd visit in a few weeks. Pam's husband had been a patient for over 18 years, she just now felt it was safe for her to come in, too.
This visit I approached her a little differently. She was already seated with the patient napkin (bib) in place. I sat in my dental stool across from her and made eye contact. (I try to be sure that my eyes are even or below the patients, I try not to sit across in a superior 'I am the doctor' position, but rather as an equal).
I told Pam I was working on a coaching lesson and I wondered if while she was here she felt 'heard'.
Pam paused before she responded and said "Sure, doc, I feel heard........pause.......when you let me talk!"
What a profound answer!! In a typical busy day in the office it is 'show time'. Patient is in the chair -- chair is tipped back -- we have a time schedule to keep, procedures to complete, next patient to be ready for... The patient is quickly hopelessly mute -- with my hands are in their mouth as I run a monologue.
Pam's simple insight changed the way I treat patients. From then on at the start of the visit, before the routine of hand washing, medical history review.....I 'connect' with the patient, and ask open ended questions like 'what's going on?...or 'what's new with you and your family?...
It only takes 3- 5 minutes to allow the person to 'talk' and share their personal stories. In those moments, I have learned more about patients I had in my practice for over 18 years, than I ever knew before! Not only that, each one wanted to give me some sort of gift in return (for giving them the gift of being fully present with them). I receive secret recipe's, movie or restaurant suggestions, even tickets to events.
In this noisy, techy world, there is a hunger to be heard. A need for human connection. Moments of being fully present seem to expand time, and sharpen the memory. Funny thing is I rarely run behind schedule because I let someone talk about themselves.
Leaders are first listeners. Who can you listen to today, really listen? Perhaps with no filters attached -- or if there is a filter, how about a filter of non-judgmental curiosity for this human being before you? How about a filter of unconditional love? Listening with all your senses,,,,and an open mind, as well as open heart. You may not only change a life, you may even save a life. Are you up for the challenge? I am curious what you will notice.