I realized much later that, although my teacher had put a merciful end to my music career, she had started me on a new mission and inspired me in a different way. What I took with me from those distant Thursday afternoons was a determination and commitment to become a good listener. If the world needed more of them, I was ready to help!
What does a good listener do? First, a good listener is present and attentive. Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multitask, when in reality, it is better and more efficient to focus on doing one thing at a time and doing it well. Good listeners “listen.” There is a difference between hearing and listening. If I’m not paying attention, for example, I can hear a full weather forecast and then check my phone to see if I need an umbrella before leaving the house. I heard the forecast, but I wasn’t “listening.”
Good listeners are open-minded, focused, and empathetic. They are aware of their biases, they ask good questions, and they seek clarification as needed. They absorb and reflect on what is being said and notice what goes unsaid. They don’t interrupt or offer automatic advice and solutions. To paraphrase Stephen Covey (2013), they are too busy listening to make sure they understand to think about how they will reply when the speaker eventually pauses. Good listeners attract the favor and trust of others, and by doing so, they can learn a great deal. Harriet Lerner (2012), in the book Marriage Rules, ponders what would happen in the world “if we would only listen with the same passion that we feel about wanting to be heard.” I can only imagine the power of this kind of passionate listening at the bedside, in the classroom or board room, and across political aisles.
At this year’s annual ANPD convention in New Orleans, I listened with hundreds of other nursing professional development practitioners to established and upcoming experts in our field. I was inspired as I listened in packed general sessions, in smaller concurrent sessions, and in hallway and dinner conversations. I listened to poster presenters share their projects and ideas. I asked questions and focused on their answers. As always, I was impressed at the breadth and caliber of their work. I learned a lot.
I hope this editorial serves as a reminder that one of our greatest skills as nursing professional development practitioners is that of listening, really listening, to understand. Good listening leads to strengthened relationships and clearer messages. Like any skill, listening takes practice. Let’s recommit to listening to our peers, colleagues, and mentors; our families and friends; and even ourselves. We look forward to hearing what you learn by doing so.
I’m listening to music as I write this. Once again, I thank Mrs.