“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” - Leo Buscaglia
I’ve spent much of the past year talking about self-care and wellness for physicians. It’s so important that we take care of ourselves so that we can be a better doctor, mother, father, friend. Very much like the flight attendant who tells us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we try to assist some else, doctors have to take care of ourselves if we’re to be in any shape to care for others.
I’m excited about the future of our organization and our personal and professional growth. You’ll hear more this October in Phoenix at the Annual Convention about staying true to why you pursued medicine. This is important to remember because by keeping the commitment to our truth, we organically become better doctors and naturally take better care of ourselves—stress flies in the face of a grounded sense of self.
When we follow our truth, we always know the next right thing to do. The Seven Principles of Principle-Centered Medicine that I wrote about in my July letter are natural characteristics we all share when we listen to the still, small voice within. And at the core of these principles is number three: practice deep listening. Without deep listening, none of the other principles—or any virtue for that matter—is possible.
What Did You Say?
Listening is to communication what a beating heart is to life: without it, there is no communication. Focused, deep listening greatly impacts our effectiveness as a doctor and the quality of all our personal and professional relationships.
Research suggests that most people really retain only half of what they hear—at most! That leaves a lot of room for improvement. We hope that patients at least hear the most important 50 percent of what we say. As listeners, we must examine what we are hearing, too. Do we hear just the symptoms? Or do we also hear the underlying stress and fear? Do we hear just the medication list and eating habits of patients, or do we also listen to the pain that drives unhealthy behaviors?
When it comes to loved ones, do we hear their cry for help? Or do we hear just the favor they need—again? Do we listen to their need for attention or do we hear they want even more time and resources from us? Can we even hear our own soul when it pleads for change? Do we listen to our bodies telling us it’s time to slow down or eat more salad?
By improving our listening skills, we get so many benefits. We increase our ability to:
- Avoid conflict
- Focus on health and well-being
- Create meaningful and pervasive relationships
- Address complexity
- Find and maintain balance
- Create good
Physician Listen to Thyself
Deep listening requires a high degree of self-awareness. An honest inventory of our communication styles will reveal where we excel and where we may need improvement. Just as it takes a conscious effort to really listen to the entire message that someone’s communicating to us, so it takes no small measure of introspection and honesty to evaluate our own listening abilities.
It’s not always easy to avoid distractions or invading thoughts as we listen to another person. It’s hard not to think of a rebuttal as the speaker goes on and on. Sometimes, it takes every ounce of energy we have to suspend judgement, not take statements personally and not let our own personal beliefs interfere with what we hear.
I look forward to exploring the many ways we can become better listeners as we expound and explore the Seven Principles of Principle-Centered Medicine together. I can’t wait to see you all in Phoenix at the Annual Convention & Scientific Sessions. ACOI prides itself on listening to the needs and goals of its members. Let’s take this even further to the limits of our capabilities. Let’s see what happens when we really mean it when we say:
“I hear you!”
Annette Carron, DO, CMD, FACOI, FAAHPM