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Listen to me. Thursday May 11, 2017

I went to a conference on Patient Experience recently where people told their patient stories. The main message was that people wanted to be heard, they wanted to feel someone had listened to them.

It seems such a simple thing - listening, we do it from the womb to the tomb yet it is often very difficult.

How many times a day do you say or hear someone say: "Just listen to me" or "What do I have to do to make you listen" or "I feel no one ever really listens to me."

It seems so easy, you just stop talking and listen. Then why does it seem so difficult?

Why do so many people feel that no one listens to them.

Why do so many people feel so alone because there is no one who listens.

Some researchers say that that the average person actually remembers a fraction of what is said to them. So much time is spent mastering other skills, but little time is spent practicing essential interpersonal skills. Listening is one of them.

What does it take to become a good listener? A lot of hard work. You need to make a conscious effort to listen to a speaker.

Listening is not easy. You're constantly trying to stay focused. When you take the effort to really concentrate and listen you maybe surprised what you learn.

I admit I had a tendency to interrupt, but I saw it as enthusiastically joining the conversation. I try very hard to focus on the talker.

Has there been a time when being listened to was very important to you?

Do you have tips of how to be a better listener?

Do you feel frustrated you are not listened to by your friends and family?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Molly Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 2:02am

Hi Leah, I feel I'm a good listener, unless I am very depressed, then I will struggle to digest what is being said or even digest a blog or email. However, on the other hand, I often don't feel I am listened to, I haven't got the type of personality to be heard as such. Sometimes we have to interrupt or talk over people or we just disappear into the background. Some people like to talk so much, and I have a family background of this, that I really cannot be bothered to even try and speak, so I just, well, listen ! It's too much effort to keep up with them. In a perfect world, it would be a two way thing, even if it's a case of taking turns when the need arises.....good post xx

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 6:17am

Molly Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It is hard when depressed to concentrate and read. It is sad that you often do not feel listened to. No one should disappear into the background. Your words have touched me and I will try to let everyone feel listened to. Taking turns works but not when the other person waits for you to finish and is not listening but is planning their speech to you!! Thanks again, Leah xx

A View from the Far Side Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 6:36am

Love this post Leah. Years ago when I was volunteering in a facilitation group that organised meetings for local groups wanting to do a project, I learnt inclusive meeting methods, one of which was a think and listen, followed by a go-round, pioneered by a permaculture expert called Andy Langford.

Think and Listen: Work in pairs for a Think and Listen. For half the time one person is the thinker and the other is the listener. The thinking turn is for the thinkers benefit. It is a time for the thinker to collect and develop their thoughts at their own pace, in their own way and using their own language if they choose. The listener makes no comments and asks no questions, but does make encouraging sounds and movements to indicate that their attention to the listener is active.

Common time periods for a Think and Listen are between two to five minutes each. What the thinker speaks about and how their thinking develops is confidential, unless otherwise agreed.

When you are the thinker remember: the time is for you and you do not need to appear bright or knowledgeable.

When you are the listener remember: look at your partner and be active in your listening, do not interrupt or ask questions.

In a Go-Round everyone gets to speak for a short, equal time, taking turns, often going round a circle of people. In meetings the facilitator can offer topics or headings to guide contributions, such as "Say your name, where you are from and how you are feeling today." But it can also be used on discussions within the meeting and ensures that not one voice dominates.

Sorry, long post, but what I'm trying to say is it helped us realise how little we actively listen and to try to amend accordingly. I don't always do it though.

If you want to find out more:

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 6:47am

AVFTFS Thanks for a great post- a blog in its own right. Great information think and listen. I will look out the link. Thanks for making me think. Leah

Sal Mon, May 15th 2017 @ 12:51am

Thanks Far Side (are you Gary Larson BTW?!), this is a lovely link, with lots of useful techniques for helping people to be fully included and to work collaboratively. It looks to me as if some of the techniques also come from Quakers and from (CCI style) co-counselling, both movements that are based on equality and an absence of hierarchy. Sal

A View from the Far Side Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 6:40am

And on the patient experience thing, I get that about wanting to be heard, but did they also want action taken? I've been at a patient experience conference with health care professionals in the US and it was heartening to see how they are trying to look at various aspects of clinical care from the patient experience view and amend if it's not good. Really, great post. Thanks. AVFTFS

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 6:52am

AVFTFS Yes there was one poignant story resulting in a tragedy, that meant an organisation called REACH was set up which helped family members or the patient get help if they felt their concerns were being ignored. One woman said because she received an apology and was listened to she no longer needed to go through the courts. The conversation is starting but it is just a start. Thanks, Leah

Orangeblossom Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 7:16am

Hi Leah, have done a few listening courses but the essence is to be present for the other. I don't always feel like listening especially if the other is talking at me. And they are saying the same thing over again. I find that it is more difficult to be an attentive listener to a member of my family.

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 8:59am

Thanks Orangeblossom Listening is complex isn't it. I never knew there were listening courses.

Lizzie Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 7:19am

Leah, you are so right. We think we are good listeners and it is so important but so much of the time we're not at all.
It's only in my 40's that I've learnt really to listen properly.
When a friend has a problem I need to listen, not talk back at them with my solutions (we naturally want to fix and become solution focussed), when I'm struggling and find the words to talk I get frustrated when lots of words are thrown back on me and I misinterpret and hang on to the messages they've given me back.
With my own children I used to think talking to them was the most important thing but I know now that listening to them and giving them my attention is far more valuable.
It's an important message! We should listen more! And to nature and what's around us too!
Thank you for this reminder today, although I have my counselling so I'll be doing a bit of talking there too ;) x

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:01am

Lizzie, Thanks for your reply.That is so true about offering solutions instead of really listening. WE do need to give attention to the speaker.

Eva Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 7:34am

It's a skill, I think I do listen and absorb, I am very lucky to have some very good friends who are great listeners and we communicate well, I also have some fluff friends who ask me the same questions everytime I see them, I'm not so good at this superficial small talk level of communication, I fail usually to make enquiries. I sometimes have to ask my husband to stop fiddling with phone, laptop etc, I have noticed that when he stops talking and I start he'll reach for the technology which is very dismissive, so now I shut up until I have his attention, or demand that he step away from the tech! I don't think he knows that he's doing it, he is so used to multi tasking and being connected.

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:04am

Thanks Eva for your post. Fluff friends, what an apt term! I think it is good to model great listeners. Of a morning my partner is always looking at the phone, I want to talk but I can't talk while he looks at the phone. Thanks for all the valid points you make.

Sally Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 8:08am

I believe in the virtue of listening, but it is not something I always practice! As the David Hockney quote following your piece said, Leah, you have to put yourself out. I mostly do, but there are times when I am guilty as charged! Perhaps if it is a topic I find boring, a repetition of what I've been told, a boring ( to me) account of an experience, or tittle tattle about someone else, when I do switch off, I'm afraid!
On the other hand, if someone told me about their mental state, I would listen attentively and with concern. Perhaps this is because I have empathy in that direction, because I've " been there" and know the pain? But in any case these days, and for many a year , I have been sensitive to the pain of others, and the world people face with difficulties associated with mental health challenges. So I would hope that I do listen when someone is trying to say something important about how they feel.
But, I agree, there is always room for improvement!
Leah, a very valid question to raise, especially in the era of multi tasking, and run, run. Thank you for posting.

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:10am

Thanks Sally for your post, It is interesting about you having empathy for someone talking about their mental health. I have to stop myself From telling my story.

Jul Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 8:48am

I think it's my failure to explain properly how I feel that prevents others from listening or understanding me. I find it difficult to talk in simple terms about things. I've always thought I was a good listener and usually attract people as friends who like to talk! Recently I decided to really listen to one of my friends and instead of feeling a little bored at her same old stuff,I commented on it in more detail and tried to understand more about what was really important to her. I could see she really appreciated this. Julxx

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:14am

Jul Thanks for your reply. It is good that you really listened to your friend and I am sure she would appreciate your effort.

Adrian Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:17am

Leah,you have a wonderful talent you getting to the heart of the substance around issues. Listening is so important and so overlooked. I did much research on this for BT as part of 'its good to talk' and the facts are we all tend to overestimated our ability to listen and tend to think it is the fault of the other person.
The key it seems is to take it as the only task at the time and concentrate on what the other person is saying and the vibes they are giving off. Then to feedback what your getting and check for understanding. Only when you have confirmation of a clear understanding do you even think of what you are going to say.
Hard work I know but worth it.

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:42am

Adrian Thanks Adrian for your kind words. I just write about simple things. Thanks for your tips - concentration and feedback are so important.

The Gardener Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 10:47am

Leah, how important this is - and how difficult. The most difficult, I've found, when using another language - you are SO busy working out your reply that you do not listed to what is being asked. An aside. Listening, for me, is really weird - I think my face says 'tell me your troubles' because I am told things, by official people, about a third party which I have not right to know - 'forgetting' you've heard it is difficult. I had to travel to London a lot when I was in my late teens, early 20's. I'd collapse into the train with a magazine, and countless times somebody in great distress would enter the carriage (compartments then) and unburden herself. This odd 'trait' made me join the Samaritans. I stayed 5 years then stopped because many of my colleagues did NOT listen. I presume the policy is the same, you listen, give information if available, but do NOT judge or give your own opinion/advice. Many of my colleagues were very bossy 'committee' ladies. They had the time, which they gave to many causes, but, this seems mean, were NOT good listeners. I find 'reading' the posts on Moodscope akin to listening - I seldom read through because a thought comes to me and I MUST reply. This whole Mental Health week, and the importance of listening, is making me pessimistic in that listening demands a) a willing ear (I have a list of people who 'unload' on me, hours on the phone) a very good GP (even if good, they have less and less time) good mutual support groups, a long, long wait for National Health treatment or a fortune spent on counselling.

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 11:06am

Gardener I think you are a good listener because you are aware of your flaws. I always enjoy your posts,

Molly Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 7:36pm

Great response The Gardener xx

The Gardener Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 10:48am

I thing AVFTFS has got it in one - takes huge discipline to hear the other one out without butting in

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 11:07am

Discipline without butting in- a good tip.

Paul Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 12:07pm

A very good blog today. My wife is always saying I don't listen, at least I think that's what she said he he. Paul

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:25pm

Paul There is truth in humour-thanks

Donella Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 3:58pm

I came back from my CBT appointment yesterday my after clearly stating my biggest problem is a feeling of not being listened to and dismissed particularly by my medical team who help in the management of chronic illnesses. My CBT lady is lovely though ?

I find the skill of active listening so easy but then I have cared enough to hone and train my skills with specialised courses.

I work in private palliative care so if charities can fund this training it is time for larger organisations like the NHS to do the same.

You make some excellent points and have stopped me thinking it is something wrong in me.

Thank you so much for your post.

Wishing you happiness and positivity ?

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:30pm

Do Ella Thanks for your informative reply. I did not realise there was so much training available for active listening. Is there a consumer health group that can help make your team listen to you more? I admire you for working in palliative care. Thanks again for raising interesting points.

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:31pm

Sorry Donella, my iPad missed the n.

The librarian Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 4:21pm

Great post, Leah - thank you. There's nothing quite like the feeling of being listened to, especially when it's by someone interested. I long to be listened to by someone who respects me as a grown adult who is capable and able to work out the practicalities but just needs a gentle ear while I am trying to work them out for myself. So many people either become bored or jump in with suggestions when what I need most is to be 'held'. I have been told I am a good listener - I enjoy hearing what other people have to say and understanding how their minds work, and I'm happy to reflect back or ask open questions "I wonder if..." "Is it possible that..." to help people think around something. I can be horribly opinionated and probably pretty judgemental at times but when I'm in the right frame of mind (i.e. Have the mental capacity and energy) I do my very best to keep it at bay and remain detached. But I'm not a trained therapist, just a human being (if one who has had a lot of therapy!)...

Leah Thu, May 11th 2017 @ 9:49pm

The librarian Thanks so much for your reflective and honest reply. I read/listened to the whole post without jumping in with my ideas. You have outlined the advantages and pitfalls of listening..Listening to others is rewarding and I am learning slowly to be patient and not jump in with my ideas. I too like to learn how others thinks to hear their stories. The fact that you are aware you are opionated and judgmental at times is much more awareness tha many have. I know I want to rush and help people who tell me they have bipolar rather than listen to them properly. I try now to just let them talk without be being over enthusiastic. Not just a human being but you are someone with much compassion and awareness and an ability to listen to others.

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