Listening for Answers Requires Asking Better Questions
Providing quality and equitable care is a two-way street. Learning to ask questions that help you understand your patient’s concerns and needs better is just as important as listening for the answers.
When you’re talking with your patient, ask open-ended questions. For example, instead of asking, “how are you doing?” try, “I’m curious about what has been going on in your life lately.” You’ll get a lot more information from this type of question to help make sense of their situation and how they feel about it.
It’s important for patients to feel heard by their doctors, so they know they matter too!
“Physicians, patients, and administrators all must maintain and build on what is sacred and soulful in clinical practice. We must listen generously so that we nurture authentic, bidirectional relationships that give clinicians and patients a sense of mutual purpose that no best-practice guideline or algorithm could ever hope to achieve.”
People want to feel heard, especially in a potentially stressful situation like a doctor’s visit. If you can help them do that, it will make for a much better experience overall.
To do this well requires two things: 1) an understanding of human nature and 2) some practice at listening effectively (and speaking clearly).
The most important thing to remember is that the patient is not just a name on a chart–they are a human being going through something challenging. And being able to listen and respond in a way that makes someone feel understood goes a long way toward easing that person’s anxiety about their health.
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