Do You Hear or Do You Listen?
Last updated: March 2022
Do you 'hear' or do you 'listen'? Strange question isn't it? Why would someone ask such a question?
The importance of communication for type 2 diabetes
There are many reasons for a question like this. When I was first diagnosed, the doctor was telling me all kinds of things that he wanted me to do and people he wanted me to visit and would make referrals for. I guess that I must have had a look on my face that made it look like I wasn't paying any attention. He put down his pen and asked me if I had picked up what he was saying.
I then proceeded to say what I had been told, reasons for doing what I had been told, and then went on to ask questions about some of it. I think he was caught off guard by my responses to him. What he didn't realize is that I had actually listened to him while also having other things on my mind about diabetes. I didn't just 'hear' and only pick up maybe a quarter of what he was saying to me. Actually listening is something I had picked up on and trained myself to do when I was growing up.
Communicating about my low blood sugar
There was a period of time that I was hitting lows when I'd do my reads. I decided to call the nurse and talk to her about it. She asked if I felt a low at night also and if I had to get up to take care of it. I told her that I'm one of the individuals she hears about that doesn't know when they're hitting a low. That I never know anything low or high until I hit the meter. She didn't like that at all and popped me right into an appointment that someone had canceled out on that day.
The doctor didn't like it either because I could have one in the middle of the night and not wake up and take care of it. She told me to eat half a sandwich of either ham, turkey, or roast beef and a half glass of milk.
An example of only hearing
So, I go home and tell the wife what the doctor had said. She lit into me about the doctor asking what kind of doctor would tell me to eat a ham, turkey, roast beef sandwich with a glass of milk right at bedtime? Was she trying to make me gain weight again? Here I am trying to explain over again that no, here's what the doctor said. Ah, no good. I told her to just listen to me for a second. "I listened to you and you said...."
Hmm. She had heard and heard only what she wanted to hear and had not fully listened to me. The next morning after I explained it to her again she caught on and asked why I didn't say that in the first place. I did, but she didn't listen. She only heard, and only heard certain things at that.
An example of truly listening
I had another doctor that I enjoyed having as my PC. At that time, I was working on copiers at the local base. Some were in the hospital. One was across from his office. He walked over and told me to come to his office when I was done. It was his lunchtime. I'd go over and we would have a lot of interesting conversations and share point-of-views on diabetes and other things. We enjoyed talking to each other. Why? Because we actually listened to each other - not just 'hearing' what each other said.
Communication with your doctor
I have been in many diabetic forums before and I saw someone post about their doctor not telling them what they wanted to hear. Someone else would tell them to find another doctor. Too many times I had often wondered if the original poster had 'listened' to what their doctor was saying or did they just 'hear' what their doctor was saying. I kept quiet and moved on to the next post because they wouldn't understand what I was saying to them.
If a person just hears, they tend to block out what they don't want to hear and come away with the view that their doctor isn't paying attention to them or, what they hear is completely different from what the doctor had actually said. But if they actually listen they might come away with a different point of view - if they listen and ask the doctor questions. I often will repeat things back to them to verify what was said, to make sure that I understood them.
Hearing vs. listening
Do you see what I'm getting at? There's a big difference between listening and hearing. This applies to patients, doctors, your team, caregivers. It also applies to your workforce as well.
I'm not going to stand here and say that it's easy. It's not. You have to train yourself to listen and not just hear. So when you go to the doctor for your diabetes checkup or any doctor for that matter, train yourself to listen and not just hear what they're saying to you.
Do you chew your food slowly or quickly?
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