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Being A Good Listener

Many of us would like to think that we are good listeners. I for one, am guilty of thinking I am always a good listener. Many chat room members always feel they are good listeners too.

There are times when I feel things psychically or intuitively. It is as if a light bulb has lit up in my mind's eye/ When this happens I will respond with what I am feeling and thinking at the moment the person who is speaking has finished.

Yet, I can at times, come out of a chat room feeling devastated and drained. I feel as if everyone is venting or dumping and no one really listens to one another. If I feel this way, I first check out where I am in the listening process. If I am consciously listening and responding without interruption and I have really heard what they other person has to say, then I know that I have been a good listener. It is at this point that I may choose to respond. I for one, do not like being a doormat for others and I am sure many of you feel the same way.

Another factor in being a good listener, is not listening while holding thoughts in your mind of what you are going to say next. If your thoughts are about what you want to say next, you are not fully present in the moment listening to the one who is speaking with you.

Interrupting by finishing sentences, is like a race or competition. It stresses you and the outcome is that you may not have truly heard what the other person had to say. Also, the person speaking may feel the stress and energetically pick it up as well, causing them to communicate less effectively.

Being a caregiver, necessitates really hearing what others are saying. It may be your loved one (who at times can be repetitive, while chewing your ear off) , a doctor, an aid a lawyer or whomever. Taking the time to really hear will eliminate much confusion as well as stress. This is the time for you to be peaceful and focused from within so that you can make wiser choices for you and your loved ones.

The caregiver is truly challenged in this area. You are faced with the role of having to discuss many difficult issues with your loved one. The problem may be further complicated if confusion and memory loss exist.

Some tools for communicating under these circumstances...

  • Be open and willing to share your own feelings, emotions and viewpoints
  • In communicating with a spouse or parent about legal or financial issues, you might consider having an attorney or accountant with you who can help in a more detached manner.
  • Hold discussions in a quiet space at a time when the care receiver is most capable of communicating themselves.
  • Acknowledge the receiver's feelings and viewpoints
  • Provide truthful, accurate information to the receiver. Don't beat around the bush trying to spare them from anything. Half truths or making promises that will not come to fruition do not support either one of you.
  • Be patient. Your loved one may have a lot of difficulty in comprehending everything. You must provide a nurturing and safe communication so they won't respond out of guilt or fear. Many people don't know how to express themselves and communicate as you would have them do, (especially older parents).
  • If your loved ones is hearing impaired, speak directly to them looking into their eyes. Slow the pace down and speak clearly. Make sure hearing aids if used are functioning properly or if there are was build ups of wax, to have them removed.
  • You may need to write things down to assure that they understand what you are communicating.
  • In terms of memory loss or dementia, there is an even greater challenge. You must speak slower, using simple words. It is so Easy for the caregiver to lose it in these situations. Try to remain calm. The receiver isn't in control. They are not out to hurt you personally.
  • If your loved ones repeats the same words or phrases, they might be trying to express something to you which is troubling them.
  • Don't go crazy trying to get them to understand things when you know it is useless. It not only upsets you, but your loved one may have weeks of disturbing thoughts resulting from faulty communications.

The lesson for the week is to reflect on your listening behavioral patterns. Write about them. Write little post it notes to yourself and place them in areas where you will remind yourself to listen more effectively. Place them in your appointment book, on your computer screen, by the phone or the bathroom mirror. You get the picture.

Detail as much as you can as to why you listen as you do.

And then...

Write about all your new listening experiences this week. How your interactions made you feel inside. How the other person might be feeling at the close of the conversation. Remember it is up to you to modify your own listening behavior, not the other person.


2/17/99 Gail R. Mitchell

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Copyright 1998 - 2000 by Gail R. Mitchell..
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