On New Year’s Day, an interview on the Today Show with Jon Gordon, a motivational expert and author, caught my attention. Mr. Gordon’s advice for those of us making resolutions for 2014, was to keep it simple by selecting one word to focus on for the upcoming year. Joni, over at Nursetopia, has been doing this for a few years and has shared her reflection on her words from 2012 and 2013, as well as her word for 2014.

After much thought, I’ve decided that my one word for 2014 will be “listen.” I often find myself thinking of my to-do list or what I will say next while someone else is talking, and before I know it, I’ve missed out on what he or she has said. As nurses, being good listeners is incredibly important – patients often confide in us and share things that they don’t tell anyone else. If we miss it, how can we be the best advocates for them?

While it would be great to just say “I’m going to always listen well,” I know that even with my best intentions, this won't happen. Being a better listener is going to take some work. So I’ve dug through our library and searched the web for some strategies to help sharpen my listening skills. Here’s what I found…

Tips for improving your listening skills

1. “SOLER” up: 

*Squarely face the patient

*Open up your posture (keep your arms uncrossed)

*Lean toward the patient

*Eye contact

*Relax

2. Eliminate distractions.

3. Be present in the current moment. Give your full attention and listen as if you will have to repeat what you are told.

4. Don’t interrupt.

5. Acknowledge the patient by nodding or using conversation cues, such as “yes” and “go on.”

6. Pay attention to nonverbal cues.

7. Use active listening or reflective listening to repeat back what a patient is telling you. This can encourage them to go on or to clarify what they are saying. For example, “It sounds like you’re saying the pain gets worse at night.”

8. When you notice that you are not listening, fix it by refocusing your attention. If necessary, apologize and ask the patient to repeat what you missed.

I realize some of these tips can be tricky depending on the environment in which you work. My advice? Do the best you can and try to ensure you’ll have ample time to hear responses when asking open-ended questions. Good luck!

Oh, and --- What is your word for 2014?

 

References

Calcagno, K. (2008). Listen Up...Someone Important is Talking. Home Healthcare Nurse, 333-336.

Jarrow, C. (2013, August 26). 10 Ways to Be Present and Be a Better Listener. Retrieved from Time Management Ninja: http://timemanagementninja.com/2013/08/10-ways-to-be-present-and-be-a-better-listener/

McMullen, L. (2013, August 24). How to Actually be a Good Listener. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/24/how-to-be-a-good-listener_n_3795849.html

Richardson, L. (2012). Motivational Interviewing: Helping Patients Move Toward Change. Journal of Christian Nursing, 18-24.