By Lissa Rankin
Guest writer for Wake Up World
I first heard the term “generous listening” almost ten years ago, when I took a workshop for doctors with Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. She told us that most doctors don’t listen generously. They’re always in their heads, trying to fix someone, rushing to a diagnosis and treatment plan. Or they’re judging what the person is saying—“Do I like what this person is saying? Or do I not like it?” Or they’re comparing—“Am I smarter than this person? Or are they smarter than me?” Or they’re one-upping, thinking of other patients who are in even more pain or have even more dire straits than the person who’s talking. Or they’re interrupting, barely letting the patient get a word in edgewise.
In doctors, these patterns don’t tend to just apply to patients. Most of the doctors I knew, myself included, were so busy thinking and judging and fixing that they didn’t generously listen to anyone, not even their spouses or children or best friends, not even their own bodies, hearts, and souls.
When Rachel taught us how to generously listen, I felt so busted — and so relieved. There were tears everywhere. We were present with each other. We felt safe. I had never felt safe in a room full of doctors before. I even felt loved. I had definitely never felt loved by a room full of doctors.
Rachel and I now teach this exercise at the Whole Health Medicine Institute, a training program about raising consciousness in health care providers and returning the heart to medicine. Yet it’s not just doctors who have forgotten how to generously listen…
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