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Listening for Meaning and Emotion

Listening for Meaning and Emotion

Listening is a skill

There’s a big difference between
hearing and listening. With the exception of those with hearing impairments, all of us can hear — it’s just sound waves pounding on the eardrum. But to really listen we must actively take in what we hear, interpret it, and be able to act on it.

Whether you are working with a patient, their family members, physicians, or anyone else you encounter as a healthcare professional, listening is the foundation of good customer service.

The person who reaches out to you has an objective — a problem that needs to be solved, a question that needs to be answered. They may even have a secondary objective or an unspoken objective. It’s up to you to be able to interpret, question, respond and take action.

But if you aren’t really listening none of that will happen.

Barriers to good listening

In the typical healthcare setting there are many barriers to excellent listening, everything from noisy coworkers, to distracting equipment, to the stack of papers on your desk, even a rumbling stomach. Sometimes those distractions are even of our own making. For example, when you are so eager and anxious to help that you hear a patient’s first few words, and then jump into problem-solving mode without really listening.

Or when you stop listening, and start formulating how you are going to respond, or what you are going to say, before the patient has finished speaking.

Or when you just can’t let go of the emotions behind an earlier encounter, to fully focus on the current customer.

In the following pages, we’ll tackle these and other common barriers to listening and offer solutions so that you can give every patient your full attention in the most positive and professional way. But first, take the brief self-quiz on page three to learn where you may need to focus extra attention in the future.


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