“What did you say?” is one of the most common phrases used today. Sometimes it is because you cannot hear someone, and sometimes it is because you are not listening to what is being said. Recently when talking with a mesothelioma patient it was apparent that she was distracted and not focused on our conversation. Clearly, she had other things going on in her head.
Mesothelioma is a life crisis, and proper communication is key to developing a care plan that is right for the patient and family. It is important for patients and their family to develop effective communication skills and to listen closely when working with the medical team. Effective listening is the primary component in effective communication.
Listening is a skill that people can work on in order to improve. It is a skill we actively use every day and we can improve on with practice. We process words at a rate of 400-500 per minute and speak at a rate of 135-175 words a minute, making listening a skill that needs concentration and practice.[expert_info author=”Carl Rogers”]”Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively, skillfully, and with understanding to another person.” [/expert_info]
The dictionary defines the verb ‘hear’ as: to perceive by the ear, as to hear sounds, to hear voices. Listen, the verb, is defined as “to give attention with the ear, attend closely for the purpose of hearing, to pay attention, heed.” Basically, listening is the ability to interpret.
Communication involves hearing and active listening. A study that was published in 1993 by Alessandra and Hunsaker states that, on average, most people retain only 25% of what they hear. That means 75% is forgotten, distorted, or simply misunderstood.
So how do we become better listeners? Some tips frequently noted are: remove distractions; focus on what is being said; be unselfconscious, that is having the ability to stop thinking about yourself during the conversation; be empathetic or find common ground with whomever you’re talking with.
When you and your loved one are working with your mesothelioma care team, listening skills are critical to ensure all issues are addressed and care is administered properly. Listening goes both ways. If you do not feel your doctor or team has heard your concerns, make sure to state them again and again until you are comfortable you have the information needed to move on. And be patient if the doctors do the same thing to you – it is just as important that they feel heard as well.