An essential technique in AFFECTIVE listening with new patients involves an interviewing discipline known as “bracketing”.
Psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck described bracketing as “the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience -as far as possible- the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping inside his or her shoes.”
True listening requires a setting aside of ourself. It also requires acceptance of the person -as they are in the moment- commonly referred to as “unconditional positive regard”.
The goal is to create a safe psychological space where the patient senses acceptance, and therefore feels less vulnerable and thus more inclined to open up and share their fears and concerns regarding dental issues.
This is challenging, particularly in the middle of a busy schedule, as most of the time we lack the capacity to truly listen while other responsibilities and distractions are present.
To do this well, uninterrupted times in the schedule must be established as well as a comfortable non-clinical location.
We must be aware that even though we may feel we are truly listening, what we are often doing is listening selectively, with a preset agenda in mind…thinking about what we want to happen next…procedurally or financially, wondering as we listen how we can achieve a certain desired result by redirecting the conversation in ways more satisfactory to us.
Thus the battle seems to always be between structuring our schedule for efficiency vs. creating more open-ended opportunities for trust to develop and knowledge conveyed at the most appropriate times – the only predictable pathway to “yes” in complex cases.
Paul A. Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments LLC, ©2017
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