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I got asked it again, in public.  “Are some people born unable to listen?”.

My brain has been bent with this kind of question countless times in public exchanges, when I always seem to stumble for a simple, clear answer.  “Why cant some of my students grasp the value of listening?”; “Why do those doctors seem like they were born unable to empathize?” or the worst of all, “Is the ability to listen genetically inherited with some people born unable to do it?”

I tend to freeze, because the question is so naked, and clearly borne of frustration, which we have no time to explore. Rather, I must provide the answer.

Then, like one of those dogs that freeze in front of you then yap away when your back is turned, I end up talking to myself afterwards, to find that answer.

So here’s a quiz of sorts:

Are you human?  If yes, then do you know that feeling of being curious about something, about another human being? If yes, then do you sometimes enjoy speaking with people about their lives?  If yes, then you can empathize. Period.

If a practitioner’s mind and heart are so cluttered with other things, then those things need attention, a sort of de-cluttering and cleansing process. When my daughter was 12 we taught her to use reflective listening, and she had no difficulty?  If Dr Ng in Singapore could do it, why cant everyone? She said that it actually saved her time?

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You can also check me using these skills on the free BMJ module, for better or worse….


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#motivational interviewing #mi #Stephen Rollnick #empahy #listening


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