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Lifesaving Listening

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Dr. Lucinda Watson taught a Professional Practice course for Psychology majors. “Today I want to work with you on listening skills. I want to begin with a video testimonial from a patient whose doctor was using new diagnostic software.”

“That software saved my life”, began the patient. “The doctor sat me down and started asking me a bunch of questions. I felt like I was back in school taking True/False or Multiple-Choice tests. I wanted to explain my answers, but I guess there was no room on the computer for explanations. The doctor was glued to that computer just like my grandson is glued to his computer games. I don’t think he ever even looked at me. My doctor must have been running behind because he went through those questions like a NASCAR driver. I would’ve liked more time to answer some of those questions, but I could tell he was in a hurry. At the end of the questions, he said that he would review any answers and bloodwork and tell me what was wrong. He told me to make another appointment, but I just left and went to see an old timey doctor.

“What a difference. The second doctor actually talked with me. He asked a few up-front questions, and every question he asked after that built on the previous question. He gave me time to tell my story about how I’ve been feeling. When we were done, he leaned forward and told me: ‘Your bloodwork and your answers tell me that we’re likely dealing with cancer. We need to do some further testing, but the good news is that I suspect we have caught it in time for successful treatment.’

“That’s why I say that software saved my life. If I hadn’t been so upset by how that first doctor treated me, I would never have seen the second doctor. It would’ve been some time before the cancer was detected with that computer system diagnosis. No telling how far the cancer would’ve spread. I tell you, I might as well have been talking to Alexa as a doctor.”

“As you can tell, the video didn’t turn out like the software company might have hoped,” resumed Watson. “Now, based upon what you saw in the video, tell me the listening practices to use and to avoid.”

The class readily made a list of appropriate listening skills. Watson then said, “It’s easy to list the dos and don’ts of proper listening behavior. But to actively practice them is something else. I hope you will remember this video when you begin your careers. Remember everyone you talk to may have something to tell you that is life changing. Care enough to really listen.”

* * *

When we listen, we hear someone into existence.– Laurie Buchanan (Author)


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons.