This true story below shared by Sharon Cauthen.
“A single mother recently fell ill and went to Urgent Care with a sore throat, headache, and a fever of 101.5 degrees. The busy doctor ran covid & flu tests (both negative), looked at her throat, and said, “Your throat looks fine so that’s not bothering you, right?” The patient replied, “Yes. It is very painful, so much so that swallowing is difficult. It’s why I came in.” The doctor sent her home with instructions to take Tylenol for the fever.
After a very pain-filled night, she felt much worse. So much so that driving felt almost impossible, so she tried her tele-med option. That doctor said, “I’m sorry but I can’t see your throat well enough to make a diagnosis. Call back if you need anything else.” and the call ended. Again, she crawled into bed feeling defeated – in tears and in pain – not sure what to do next.
Later that day, she went back to the same Urgent Care. She could barely sit up and curled into the fetal position on the exam table. A different and very kind doctor took one look at her, listened to her story, and said, “I can see that you are very sick and in obvious pain and we are going to figure it out and help you get better.” Tears streamed down her fever-reddened face. A positive strep test, a steroid shot, and a strong antibiotic later — She started the road to recovery. But before the shot and antibiotics ever entered her body, she could feel the relief of having been heard – at last.”
It is not my goal that this conversation devolves into a healthcare system argument. Because this isn’t about politics, insurance, access to healthcare, or over-capacity medical staff. Those are important topics for another day. At its core, this story represents a simple failure to listen.
Over the last several years (and in all its iterations), the Multifamily Collective has been ringing the bell on the topic of human-centricity. The need to see, hear and understand the people who work with us. Team members are people first with all the multifaceted needs that come with the species. If you live and breathe a human-centric culture, you will inevitably experience a team member exhibiting the hallmarks of distress.
The thing that people in pain, be it emotional or physical, need more than anything is for someone to listen and validate that what they are experiencing is real and acknowledge that it is hard. Being an empathetic listener is key to helping someone feel heard.
The ability to listen is a superpower that each of us can improve with dedicated practice.
I encourage you to do the work and to develop your skills in how you engage in empathetic listening – not just hearing but truly seeking to understand. I am guilty, too, of being distracted by a full calendar and other pressing issues but how I engage with a person in distress in front of me is one of the most important measures of my humanity and my leadership.
Do you have tips that help you remember to listen intently with compassion before offering a response? Please share them with us!
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