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Generous Listening: The foundation of a great patient experience

Posted by Kristin Baird on November 15th, 2010 • No Comments »

I recently brought my 83-year-old mother in for oral surgery. No one looks forward to oral surgery, and my mom was no exception. It’s one of those necessary evils that you just have to make it through. The day of her surgery was my second visit to the oral surgeon’s office, and I left both encounters feeling impressed, confident, and grateful for the compassionate, respectful care.

Since I live, eat, and breathe the patient experience, I gave serious thought to what was so exceptional about the encounters. The thing that stood out about both encounters was the respectful attention from both the nurse and the surgeon who cared for my mother and provided me with information about her care. I could generalize by saying they demonstrated good communication skills, but a better definition would be generous listening.

Generous listening is defined as the practice of being fully attentive to the person speaking. It is distinguished by the commitment to learn about the person before you and is a gift that you give to someone. Generous listening is the gift of your attention and of your willingness to connect.  In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, we’re surrounded by distractions, making listening more difficult than ever. Practicing the art of generous listening takes discipline and focus, but reaps high rewards.

In a healthcare setting, generous listening is one of the things that will distinguish the good from the great. And if there is one thing that will foster better relationships both personally and professionally, it’s generous listening. In my mother’s case, the surgeon and nurse caring for her made it a point to listen to her and see her as more than the procedure on the schedule–to respectfully explain what to expect and to listen attentively to her questions (and mine). They took time to learn and remember that she is an active, engaged, educated, and productive woman. Their attention made us both feel valued and respected.

While generous listening is important in all relationships, it is crucial in healthcare encounters where anxiety is high and trust is so fragile. Want to improve the patient experience? Master the art of generous listening.

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Baird Consulting


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