How to listen

“Don’t ever change,” a patient said to me as he walked out of my consulting room.

For a second I was a bit puzzled and didn’t know what he meant by that. But then I remembered a couple of months ago my colleague had told me about this particular patient. He had mentioned to them that he thought I was a good doctor because I looked at him when he spoke.

And that made me think.. Jeez… is that really all it takes for people to think that you’re a good doctor? That you just have to have the decency to look at someone when they speak to you?

And the more I thought about it, the more I thought how sad that was. This patient must have been so accustomed to not being listened to, that he had to make a point to compliment someone when he did feel listened to.

And that made me more and more aware of whether or not people listened to me, or whether or not I listened to them. I started to notice my husband constantly on his phone reading reddit threads. I noticed that my phone’s average screen time for this week was 8 hours and 9 minutes per day. How is that even possible?? At cafes or restaurants I noticed families sitting together for a meal while their kids stared at phones or iPads with their headphones in… I noticed myself immediately frowning upon this and then making a mental note to ban my future kids from having devices at the table. Even though I’m guilty of doing this myself.

The truth is, we aren’t good at listening. We live in a society where everyone is stuck to their screens- physically present, but their minds elsewhere. And that’s such a terrible thing. We lack basic etiquette which can ultimately lead to bruised and fractured interpersonal relationships.

That patient felt heard and seen just because I looked at him when he spoke. Just because I was literally doing my job.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just switch off and really be present with one another? If the simple act of looking someone in the eye when they spoke could make them feel seen and heard? If giving them your full attention could make them feel acknowledged, understood, and respected? That would be such an incredible thing… to hold the power to make a positive influence on someone; simply by being human.


4 thoughts on “How to listen

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