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Your doctor and the art of listening

Listening is an art and many doctors, as well as others, have the gift of listening. Most patients who are serious about living healthy will testify to the reality that their doctors are excellent listeners, while some may state exactly the opposite. In other words, personal experiences with doctors in terms of their listening ability, or skills can vary considerably.

What does to listen mean? The article “Listening Skills” suggests that “Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages.”

Professional and non-professional communication can be problematic at times, but doctors are generally excellent listeners. In other words, they do know how to listen to patients and have other kinds of effective communication skills, as well. Remember that a doctor is a doctor, because he or she is a medical professional and knows his or her reputation depends upon his or her inter-personal relationships with patients, including you.

Does your doctor really listen to you? Consider the following suggestions, if you think that your doctor may not be listening to you, or understanding what you are saying.

Before your office visit, write down what you want to tell your doctor, or need to report to him or her. When you put your symptoms and requests in writing and keep them right in front of you while you are talking, you can address each concern individually, or collectively, as a whole. You also have the option of showing him or her, what you have written down. Make certain that what you have written is concise and easy to read. Using point form is generally a good idea.

How are your own listening skills? Listen closely to what your doctor is telling you, in response to what you have stated, as he or she may have heard and understood what you have been reporting, but you may need further confirmation of that fact. He or she may need to restate it for you, so that you know he or she really has been listening.

In other words, perhaps you were not listening closely enough to his or her response to you, in order to recognize the fact that he or she did hear what you were stating. He or she may have used language that you did not understand. You can ask him or her to explain or clarify further, anything that you did not understand.

Be aware that your doctor may already have diagnosed your problems, and is several steps ahead of you, while you are still elaborating upon your symptoms, thinking that he or she may not have listened to you initially.

At the same time, your doctor may be multitasking, simply because of his or her busy schedule. What your doctor appears to be preoccupied with, may be filling out essential forms for your lab work, or other tests you need. You must provide a requisition in order to have many treatments and procedures. He or she may also be writing out prescriptions for medications for you or making notes on your file about other possible options or specialists.

If you really do not think your doctor is listening, ask if he or she has heard and understood what you have stated. You may simply need to have him or her explain it further, or in more detail. Perhaps his or her nurse may be able to answer some of your questions.

When you are visiting the doctor, allow him or her to ask questions, rather than repeating everything you have stated previously. You will likely find that he or she has understood what you stated, even though he or she is not responding the way that you anticipated.

Be prepared to be open to discuss new and different treatments, ideas and concepts, with your doctor. Remember that you have come to him or her for medical advice. Your health is important to him or her.

Ignore negative criticisms of other family members or friends, with respect to your doctor’s ability to listen. Expect that he or she will be listening very carefully to you and will hear and understand what you are saying.

Remember that your doctor may be extremely busy at any time, but you are the patient with the doctor at that moment, and his or her focus is primarily on you, not on others, or something else. Be aware that he or she may be or become weary, too.

A second opinion can be helpful to you, if you are seriously questioning your doctor’s ability to listen to you, or to hear and understand your problems. Ask him or her to arrange for a second opinion, and he or she will probably not hesitate to do that for you.

In the meantime, concentrate on building a strong, positive relationship with your doctor and trust that he or she will be alert to what you say, as well as your needs. This always includes your need to have him or her listen to what you are stating or reporting.