We’ve all heard the phrase, “Be slow to speak, quick to listen.” It’s ancient advice that’s easy to overlook in a modern world full of new information and endless distractions. But when it comes to health care, active listening is an essential skill. Taking the time to listen attentively is a critical part of an effective diagnosis. It’s how a skilled medical practitioner starts to fill the top of the diagnosis funnel with the information needed to guide them down the path to the root cause of your problem. Taking the time to listen and fully understand your story upfront makes every other part of the process faster and more effective.
Why you need to find a doctor that listens to you.
There are many reasons why doctors should listen to their patients. Listening is obviously the way your doctor will learn about your concerns and symptoms. But active listening goes way beyond that.
It creates an engaging, productive discussion.
A doctor that actively listens also asks better questions. Understanding your situation goes beyond cataloging symptoms. Your doctor needs to get to know you, your interests, your expectations, and the reason you’re in the room talking with them.
It builds trust between you and your doctor.
It’s much easier to trust your doctor when you’re confident that they have your best interests at heart. Listening is the gateway to empathy and understanding. Knowing that you’ve been heard and understood is the first step in building trust.
It informs and creates buy-in.
Like we said, listening leads to good questions, which leads to an active discussion. It’s the cornerstone of learning about your diagnosis and treatment options. The conversation and education that results from asking the right questions help you and your doctor come to an agreed-upon path forward that you’re both committed to.
How to prepare for your appointment.
Beyond finding a doctor who really listens to you, there are things you can do to make sure you’re prepared to maximize your time with them.
1. Gather any relevant information together before your appointment. – Be prepared to talk about what’s wrong. Not just what’s bothering you, but the implications of it too. What does it keep you from doing? Why do you want to feel better? Do you have any goals driven by better health? Be prepared to help your doctor get to know your and your routines a little better. Don’t be afraid to write all of this down before your appointment, so you don’t forget about any of it. And don’t forget to include details like symptoms, any medications or supplements you take, and any recent treatments you received.
2. Take the time to talk about what’s important to you. – Your lifestyle, as well as other social and behavioral factors, can have a massive impact on your health. But a recent poll indicates that only about half of patients talk to their doctors about things like diet, sleep, and exercise. Don’t minimize the impact of those factors on your overall health.
3. Ask questions. – As we mentioned above, listening combined with good questions is rocket fuel for making things better more quickly. Do your part, and make sure you thoroughly understand your options and any resulting treatment decisions. Some simple but really useful questions you can ask include:
- “What does that mean?” – Get clarity on anything you don’t fully understand.
- “What about…?” – Make sure you address everything you planned to cover in your appointment.
- “What should I do if…?” – Get input on what you should do if something changes after your appointment.
- “Why should I…?” – Validate your treatment plan with your doctor. It’ll only work if you stick to it. Make sure you’re fully prepared to do that.
What to do if you feel like you’re not being listened to.
If you don’t feel good about where things are at the end of your appointment, if you don’t feel like you’ve been heard, there’s still time to ask some final questions to gain clarity and confidence. Ask, “What might this be?” or “What do I do if the symptoms get worse?”
If additional questions don’t help, by all means, seek a second opinion before taking action.
The Kaldas Center is here to help.
Listening is a core value at the Kaldas Center because we understand its role in opening the door to an engaged and fruitful conversation that leads to effective treatments. If you’re not being listened to, or need a second opinion on issues ranging from painful periods, pain during intercourse, bleeding, infertility, a leaking bladder, pelvic pain, and more, we’re ready to help. Call the Kaldas Center at 920-886-2299 to start a discussion about your health and finding a path towards a normal life.