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 …