Care Dimensions: Podcast: The Importance of Listening

Voices of Care

Podcast: The Importance of Listening

Posted on May 27, 2020 by Mia Buscone

In this episode of the Care Dimensions Learning Institute's podcast of Living Forever, Not an Optionhosts Lyn Skarmeas and Mary Crowe discuss the importance of listening. They talk about fundamental listening skills, different types of listening styles, and barriers to effective listening. Expressing our wants, feelings and opinions is only half of an effective communication process, the other half is listening. We know that we have effectively communicated with someone else when the message is received the way the sender intended it. When we truly listen to another person, we understand what they are thinking and feeling from their perspective.

A study done by University of Minnesota researchers concluded that after hearing someone speak for a short period of time, the average person will only remember half of what they heard. This can be due to different barriers such as being preoccupied, making judgments, not asking for clarification, or just being more interested in what you are about to say and waiting for your turn to speak. To better understand each other, we can ask open-ended questions, give non-verbal affirmation (such as nodding, smiling, or pausing), clarify, manage timing and minimize interruptions. The most effective style of listening is active reflective listening.

Lyn and Mary explain that by using active listening, we are checking our understanding of the discussion before responding. Some strategies for active listening are focusing your full attention, maintaining eye contact, not judging what the other person is saying, and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. You do not have to agree with somebody to understand what they are saying. It is also important to be present by showing empathy and acknowledging vulnerability. Encourage reminiscing and refrain from giving advice. It is important that a person feels heard and they have your undivided attention. Presence, as in truly being in the moment with that person in a compassionate and non-judgmental way, is one of the greatest gifts you can give another.

To learn more about listening skills, check out these resources:

  • Brady, M. (2003). The wisdom of listening.  Wisdom Publications.
  • Buckman, Robert, MD, PhD, Communication Skills in Palliative Care: A Practical Guide, Neurologic Clinics, Volume 19, Number 4, November 2001
  • Burley-Allen, M. (1995). Listening: The forgotten skill: A self teaching guide. John Wiley & Sons Publications.
  • Donoghue, P. J. & Siegel, M. (2005). Are you really listening: Keys to successful communication. Sorin Books,.
  • Guilmartin, N. (2010). Healing conversations: What to say when you don’t know what to say. Jossey-Bass
  • Miller, J. E. (2003). The art of listening in a healing way. Willowgreen Publishing.
  • Miller, J. E. with Cutshall S. C. (2001). The art of being a healing presence. Willowgreen Publishing.
  • Nadig, Larry Alan, PhD, Tips on Effective Listening, July, 2010,
  • Zimmer, Sandra, Top Ten Ways to Develop the Power of Presence, The Self-Expression Center

Listen to the podcast (click here)

Learn more about how hospice or palliative care can help you make the most of every day.

Watch our Timing is Everything television show that highlights different aspects of hospice and palliative care (click here).

About the author:

Mia Buscone is a marketing assistant working with the Care Dimensions Learning Institute.


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Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.