Today we all live very fast-paced lives and all too often we forget the most basic of skills -- to listen well. This is particularly important when communicating with our elderly. How often do we rush to visit a parent and cannot spend enough time with them?
The visit may be a routine check on their well being, to have a quick chat or see if they need anything. Being busy ourselves, we often unintentionally rush in and out of their lives. When we do this, we miss vital information that is readily available if only we slow down and learn to listen.
Many seniors do not wish to be a burden to their younger siblings and children who have taken the trouble to care for them. They fully realize the effort it takes and so will often keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, rather than add more worry and trouble to our already hectic lifestyles. People would love to tell you more about themselves if we would only be open enough to listen properly.
Listening effectively is a skill which is lost in today's society unless you are a trained counsellor. With a few tips and tricks, you too can learn to be an effective listener: you will be amazed at what you learn.
Listening effectively is a learned behaviour and takes time but there are certain common techniques that we can start to use right away.
•Take a seat. This shows that you are ready to listen and makes a commitment from you to concentrate on the task on hand.
• Relax. Uncross you legs, don't fold your arms. This sends a message that you are closed off and not open to communication. Make eye contact and try not to glance at your watch.
• Let the speaker speak. Do not interrupt. Allow natural silences at the end of conversation before you reply. This tells the speaker that you have heard them and that you have absorbed what they have to say.
• Reaffirm positively. By saying "I hear you" and nodding now and again, you are telling the speaker that you understand and empathize with what they are trying to say. Answer with open-ended sentences when the conversation grinds to a halt. "How do feel about that?" opens up a conversation and encourages the speaker to continue with whatever is on their mind.
• Watch for non-verbal signals. Rubbing a shoulder might indicate painful arthritis; a long sleeved sweater on a warm day might be hiding bruises from a fall. Become alert to their surroundings.
Remember this is not about you, your opinions or your advice. It is about allowing the speaker to say what they normally would not and that will only happen when we show that that we truly care and that we are there to hear them -- not necessarily to jump and fix their problems. Sometimes we just want to be heard. Peter Drucker once said "The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said."
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