Listening and attending

Curiously, some people don’t consider ‘listening’ as ‘communication’. To them, it seems odd that part of communication involves being quiet. But listening is vital to good communication and is especially important for you as a health care worker.

You’ll be working closely with patients/clients and they will often tell you important things. Indeed, some may prefer to speak to you rather than to registered staff about how they are feeling or about things that worry them, because they have got to know you, like you and trust you.

So really hearing what patients/clients are saying – really listening and attending to what they say – is a key skill.

It means paying attention to what the person is saying and working out what it really means. And the best way to do this is to:

  • follow the advice in the sections on non-verbal communication and verbal communication
  • remain quiet, but encourage the patient/client to speak with gentle head nodding and, when appropriate, positive words (‘yes’, ‘do continue’) and simple questions (‘and how did that make you feel?’).

As you listen, try to identify key words that might sum up how the person is feeling, words like:

  • frightened, or scared
  • lonely
  • fed up, or ‘a bit down’
  • pain, or discomfort
  • worried.

When the person has finished speaking, reflect back to him or her what you’ve understood. For instance, you might say something like this:

‘It sounds from what you’re saying, Mr Smith, that you’ve got some concerns about the test you’re going for tomorrow, especially about whether it will cause you any discomfort. Would you like me to get staff nurse to speak to you about it?’

Listen to the audio clips to hear a good and poor example of listening skills.

Good listening skills

Good listening skills transcript

Poor listening skills

Poor listening skills transcript

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