In our hectic, busy world, one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family and others in your care is to listen well. Compassionate listening is an art; it takes practice. It takes patience. It takes time.
Charles Dickens has said: No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else. One of the best ways to lighten a load is to learn to become a good listener.
1 Try not to judge another persons reactions to a situation or give unsolicited advice. You may not relate to what the person is saying, but it is real to them. This can be tricky if you are caring for someone with memory issues; however, they need a compassionate ear.
2 Think about the person you are listening to. Consider their health and well-being. Are they confined to a chair, bed, or room for most of their time? Before you hurriedly walk away, think about the fact that you may be the only person all day that has actually taken a few minutes to listen to their story.
3 Learn to listen carefully for clues as someone talks to you. Do they sound overly concerned about what should be an insignificant matter? Could there be more to the story than is being said? Could there be hidden reasons for their concern?
4 Learn to give appropriate feedback. Instead of saying, “I know how you feel,” try saying, “That must be difficult for you.” Or simply say “I’m sorry you are feeling this way.” As I visited with a recent widow this week, I could not say I knew how she felt even though I had experience the loss of a husband. My experience was not hers; I can understand the hurt, but I needed to hear her story, hold her hand and say “I’m so sorry.”
5 This last tip may seem to be the most obvious. However, it is often the most neglected. Give a smile and a gentle hug. A smile has a tremendous healing effect on everyone. Pray for the situation when appropriate; at least add the concern to your personal prayer list. A simple pat on the hand or shoulder and genuine smile can make the day for someone. Good medicine for them–and good for you!
As you take time to really listen, you will reduce tension and build trust. I like to keep a small notebook handy to jot down concerns I have or things I want to remember for the next conversation. I need the reminders — you may not forget as I do!
You have a great week and as you listen to others, allow time to listen to Our Heavenly Father as well; He is the best Compassionate Listener!