Taking Time for Empathic Listening
By Amy Kneisley
Miami County Board of DD
Have you ever said or thought, “I don’t have time for this?” We are often rushing through our shift with production to get out, people to change, and goals to meet. Without thinking, we jump to conclusions, we forget how to listen, and “Care” drops off from our philosophy of Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM.
Too often, familiarity breeds contempt and we become judgmental with each other and those in our care. This impedes, sometimes even stops, active listening. How are we to discern what a person is saying if we are jumping to conclusions or making assumptions? Once we do, there is greater risk for an individual who is at the defensive level to escalate further.
I have asked staff to think about how much of their valuable time is spent on an escalating situation rather than on discerning what a person is saying. When staff take time to give their undivided attention, use restatement to clarify, and listen to underlying messages, situations that could escalate are handled in a productive and timely manner. When staff does not use these skills, the individual may escalate or act out, which stops production and/or day programming.
Strategies that staff can use when actively listening are:
Pay attention and reduce distractions.
Move to a quiet area away from the phone, email, or crowd.
Show them you are listening:
Look at them.
Head nod or say “uh huh” to let them know you are hearing them.
Pay attention to your body language and posture.
Use restatement to clarify.
Give constructive feedback and positive encouragement.
When we take time to listen, we have more time for quality services, and we build a stronger trust and relationship with the individuals we serve.
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