Generous Listening – What you give pays huge dividends

When people talk about great communication skills, they most often refer to how one speaks or writes. But listening is by far the most important communication skill and is often underrated. There is an art to being a good listener, and it pays huge dividends in building respect, understanding and collaboration.

When one of my daughters was just 9 years old and needed a physical for school, I was surprised that she asked me to schedule her with Jeannie, the nurse practitioner. First, I did not realize she knew what a nurse practitioner was. Second, it surprised me that she voiced preference for one provider over another.

When I asked her if she knew what a nurse practitioner was, she replied, “Yes. She’s like a doctor but listens to me like I’m important.”  Out of the mouths of babes! What she was describing, was generous listening and it was a clear differentiator for her.

Generous listening is 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, distractions surround us, making listening more difficult than ever. Practicing the art of generous listening takes discipline and focus but reaps high rewards with patients, co-workers or anyone with whom you want to forge a trusting relationship.

Follow these tips to develop generous listening habits:

  • Focus on the other person with the intention of really hearing them. Too often, our thoughts go to formulating our response rather than listening with intention.
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Ask good questions that show engagement and listening
  • Limit distractions whenever possible to improve your focus and demonstrate that what they have to say is important

Whether you are in conversation with a staff member or a patient, these simple tips send a strong message that you value them and that they are important.

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