Become a World-Class Listener Part 1

Dr. Pankey had an advantage most of us do not that made him a world-class listener. Often labeled a disability, Dr. Pankey was hard of hearing. Because of this, he had to learn how to listen intently to his patients.

Dr. Pankey learned to listen for feeling over content. Listening is a skill that can be developed and improved. It requires intention and attention. One must practice! Here are a few tips that help:

Actionable Skills to Become a World-Class Listener

Offer Your Empty Presence

Most important of all is the intent to be present. Be here, nowhere else. Never enter a room without taking a deep belly breath to quiet the sympathetic, judgmental lizard brain and enhance the empathetic brain.

Empty presence is being fully available for the patient with no agenda, no busy talk going on in your mind, no judgment about what is said, no mental correcting or explaining chatter going on in your head for when you get a chance to talk.

I like to imagine an empty white balloon completely devoid of anything. My objective is to simply let the person fill it with their own thoughts and feelings. Really focus on what they say and how they say it and especially the feelings behind it. You are a gatherer of their information, not an explainer, corrector, teacher, or judge.

Let the Person Finish Their Story Without Interruption

Take a deep belly breath again once they have gone silent. What they just told you is simply what they first told you. There is probably more. When a person has finished their story, the silent period is when they are understanding what they just said.

Silently offer your open heart with compassion, allowing them time to spill out everything they need to say. Silently count to 10 before speaking, then use simple encouragements: “Is there anything more,” “Yes, I understand,” “I’m glad to know that,”  “I’m sorry to hear that,” or “Tell me more.”

To be continued …

Bill Gregg DDS

I attended South Hills High School in Covina, Denison University in Granville, Ohio and the University of Redlands in Redlands, California prior to dental school at UCLA. My post-graduate education has included an intensive residency at UCLA Hospital, completion of a graduate program at The L.D. Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education ; acceptance for Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD); and in 2006 I earned the prestegious Pankey Scholar. Continuing education has always been essential in the preparation to be the best professional I am capable of becoming and to my ongoing commitment to excellence in dental care and personal leadership. I am a member of several dental associations and study groups and am involved in over 100 hours of continuing education each year. The journey to become one of the best dentists in the world often starts at the Pankey Institute. I am thrilled that I am at a point in my professional life that I can give back. I am honored that I can be a mentor to others beginning on their path. As such, I have discovered a new passion; teaching. I am currently on faculty at The L.D. Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education devoting 2-3 weeks each year to teaching post-graduate dental programs. In other presentations my focus is on Leadership and includes lifestyle, balance and motivation as much as dentistry.

Bill Gregg DDS

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