It’s not too surprising that the longer you’re around someone, the less you’ll tend to listen to every word they say, an observation that many a husband and wife have likely discussed the longer they’ve stayed married.
It’s not that residents of San Diego and elsewhere don’t listen when it’s important, such as in emergencies or when someone is asking, “are you even paying attention?” But they might admit tuning out some of the daily chatter after awhile, whether it’s family or friends, spouses or even caregivers and clients.
The staff at Accredited Home Care has heard similar gripes from some of the clients we work with, especially those who have a family member who provides basic caregiving/supervision throughout the week but still invites professional home health services for scheduled visits to provide additional care or higher quality nursing services.
We do our utmost to listen to our clients since that’s really part of our mission. But we also understand how it can be challenging in other situations, especially where people have been close for years.
That’s why we encourage a habit called “active listening” to encourage everyone to have better conversations.
Not only does this approach help the listener provide better attention when someone is talking, but it also helps them ask better questions to extend and strengthen any conversation topics.
It will also help the speaker to move from not being sure if anyone is actually listening to what they have to say and sometimes feeling generally un-appreciated to actually enjoying discussions with good listeners.
There are actually several theories about active listening and how and why it can work well. It’s a communication approach that’s encouraged in many professional communities, including business and law. These areas are often where a large amount of communication is required, as well as situations where specific details and correct wording are absolutely vital.
According to Tutsplace, a site that offers tips and tools to improve business communication and overall learning, there are three prime components of active listening.
- This requires the listener to pay attention to what someone is telling them. This includes words as well as any non-verbal cues which also could aid in understanding a message.
- Immediately after the person is finished speaking, the listener tries to recall and store what they’re saying. Memory can often work if it’s basic, but memory is fallible so some people prefer to write something down or record it verbally, like a tape recorder or phone.
- You can let the speaker know you’ve heard them, understood them, and then retain what they say.
Of course, we do a lot of these subconsciously when someone speaks, so many of them seem like second nature. But getting into the habit of active listening means consciously going through each item to make sure we are truly paying attention or listening fully.
After all, skipping ahead can result in not hearing everything or remembering all the details, or getting some details wrong.
And, of course, following these steps seem complicated enough for someone for one sentence or half of a conversation. A whole conversation could take much longer to comprehend, retain and respond to. Then double that if both parties are taking the opportunity to focus on better active listening, which might be a good idea.
Listening for caregivers
In the case of caregivers, listening is crucial, since some clients may not say what they mean or have other things bothering them that may not be mentioned with their words. Maybe they’ll talk about the weather but their real concern is feeling lonely. Maybe they’ll have other anxieties that they may not want to mention.
While a less active listener may hear the basics, it might take someone more actively exploring and engaging in conversation with them. This doesn’t mean interrogating them but merely talking can be a wonderful thing.
Paying attention can also lead to some other pleasant surprises. A client may mention something in passing like a favorite food, hobby, or TV show. They may talk about their birthday or another special occasion.
A caregiver who tries to pay attention during conversations can either write down these details or record them. Then, they can use this info for a future surprise, such as bringing a movie over or a birthday cake. While the person doing the talking may not have realized that they shared this info, they’ll be impressed with the caregiver’s thoughtfulness.
Time to listen
If you don’t know where to start in improving your listening or (politely/tactfully) suggesting some strategies for others, begin with a visit to listen.org, which is the official page of the International Listening Association. The organization offers a variety of resources to improve listening in different industries and settings at a worldwide level. Membership opportunities are available.
The ILM also is an official sponsor of International Day of Listening, an annual celebration and observance for those who want to improve their listening activities. The day isn’t actually until September 16. But the ILM also offers online mini-seminars throughout the year to learn more, including a new one on April 16 with the topic of “How are you Listening?”