Learning How To Listen Effectively Helps You Understand Your Loved One’s Needs Better
“We are given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard as talking.” ~ Larry Alan Nadig
Are you experiencing difficulty communicating with your senior loved one? You try, but neither of you is getting through to the other. Pegasus caregivers in Shadow Hills and elsewhere offer tips for learning to listen to meet your senior’s needs better.
Hearing is the physical process of sound waves causing eardrums to vibrate. Any sound, including background noises, can be heard. Ticking clocks, refrigerator hums, and even your breath create sound waves.
Unless sounds are out of the ordinary or disruptive, most are ignored. Listening is the ability to pay attention to a specific sound in order to understand it. In person-to-person communication, listening starts with hearing and understanding the words being said.
Then the words should be sorted into either long-term or short-term memory. Evaluating the content helps you understand the speaker’s message. When the speaker is done, offering feedback shows that you listened and “got” what was said.
How To Be A Better Listener
You can learn to be a better listener by:
- Facing the person speaking and making eye contact.
- Paying attention to what they are saying and filtering out distractions.
- Avoiding judging or criticizing what the person is saying.
- Refraining from interrupting or finishing a slow speaker’s sentences.
- Concentrating on how the speaker is expressing their thoughts or feelings.
- Asking relevant questions at appropriate times to clarify your understanding.
Listening to your loved one means making time for them. Developing good listening skills will improve your relationship with them. The improved understanding you gain will help you better meet their needs.
Body Language Is An Essential Part Of Listening
Although it doesn’t involve sound, body language is also a part of communication. Your body language can enhance your spoken words. It can also cancel your message.
Your senior loved one may have a hearing impairment. Over time, they may have compensated for it by interpreting nonverbal messages. They may be “listening” by evaluating your expressions, posture, or body movements.
It can be easy for them to completely misunderstand what you’re saying by observing your body language. Conversely, you need to be aware of their body language when you’re speaking to them. That can help you evaluate whether they accurately understand what you’re saying.
Active Listening Includes Moments Of Silence
Your loved one may speak slowly or ramble. To avoid losing your patience, practice active listening and concentrate on what they’re saying. If you half-listen, you may miss important information.
To effectively communicate with your senior, eliminate as many distractions as you can. For example, mute the TV. Avoid side conversations with others.
Most individuals are busy planning how to answer when someone else is talking. They aren’t truly listening. According to one expert, silence can be golden.
He suggests saying nothing for one full second after your senior stops talking. Maintain eye contact while using that second to think about what was said. Then respond.
That second of silence shows your senior that you truly listened and are evaluating what they said. It yields a sense of connection. It’s also an opportunity for you to respond objectively.
Improving How You Listen To Your Senior Loved One
It’s also necessary to honor their silence when they’re considering what to say next. Rushing your senior shuts down further communication. Other tips include:
- Waiting until asked before offering advice. Try providing support and encouragement rather than advice.
- Respecting differences of opinion. Do your best to reach a compromise. When issues must be dealt with, try to set priorities and work on one at a time.
- Refraining from shouting if they’re hearing impaired. Try to speak clearly and calmly, but don’t do so in a condescending or patronizing way. If you must speak louder, do so in a respectful tone.
- Trying to put yourself in their place, while avoiding assumptions about how they feel or what they are trying to tell you.
- Asking questions about their life, such as games they enjoyed as a child. This takes emphasis off current problems. It can also establish closeness between you and your loved one.
- Finding things that you and your loved one can laugh about together.
These tips are useful even if your loved one has dementia. Additional suggestions for communicating with an individual with dementia include:
- Understanding that your loved one is not the same person they used to be and accepting the changes.
- Avoiding complicated statements and questions.
- Choosing a time when they aren’t tired or distracted to talk to them.
- Obtaining their attention before speaking, and pausing or postponing the conversation if they wander.
Be patient. Your loved one is probably frustrated and angry at their inability to express themselves.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our caregivers in Shadow Hills and our other locations always strive to improve their ability to communicate effectively. Their listening skills help them meet the needs of your senior loved one.