May 6, 2013 - Miscellaneous

I learned a lesson.

It’s important to listen to the question, before offering an answer.

In my medical practice, I utilize questioning to provide information about my patient—why they’re in my office, and what medical problems might be involved.

To a doctor, the interview is as important as the physical exam.

But while in mid sentence, I am frequently interrupted by my patient, who would rather speak over me than listen.

In America, we have developed an attitude that we can do what we want. The result is that common courtesies, such as listening without interrupting, are becoming a thing of the past.

This is not only true of the medical profession—it is the case in general society and even the Church.

We are no longer quick to listen and slow to speak. Instead, we want our voices heard even if it takes the form of ignorance.

This should concern us not only because it is inappropriate, but also because it is against scripture. James 1:19 states:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

That defines my dad. He often sat in meetings and quietly took everything in, speaking only when he felt he had a meaningful word. As a young boy I asked him why he didn’t speak up more. He said, “You never learn by talking—you learn by listening.”

It was a lesson I would never forget. Although I don’t always heed his advice, I should.

In the medical field, when a patient overtakes the conversation, there is the presence of one or more misconceptions. The same errors are true in church and the private sector.

Here are three common misconceptions:

  • Your question is not as important as my answer
    • Although we want to hear other’s opinions, their interruptions cause us to struggle to stay on track. When we force our opinions on others and show our disrespect by talking louder in order to be heard, we make a clear statement that we don’t care what they have to say.
  • I have information that invalidates your question
    • In medicine, looking to the Internet to research ailments is filled with inherent problems. Not everything found on the Web is true. Net surfing does not redefine research—it ignores it. The same is true of any topic. The false information becomes more real to them than the truth ever could.
  • I am more qualified than you in this subject
    • Empowerment by false information is terribly disruptive and inherently dangerous. It’s difficult at best to convince someone they were misinformed. Making them listen to what you have to say, when it is much more important for them to make their point, is nearly impossible. I have had patients bring me printouts of blog posts written authoritatively by web cruisers who have never had a moment medical training, and some of whom are still in high school.

When facing an individual who refuses to allow you equal time, you may consider doing what I do—ask them to pause and tell them they are not respecting your opinion. If they’re not receptive, walk away. No, really—walk away. It’s a game changer.

That being said, remember—the most important factor is what scripture tells us. We are called to be slow to speak and quick to hear. We can’t always have the floor.