As a teenager, I loved the song "Shut Up and Drive" by Chely Wright. I remember blasting it in my car on the way back from swim practice. I also remember crying myself to sleep at night listening to those lyrics when I felt the first pangs of heartbreak...
Recently, I am learning more about the art of listening. Too often, I would hear what people were saying, all while simultaneously thinking about what my response to them would be. I was hearing them, thinking over what I would say, and not at all listening to them.
Sometimes as health professionals, we are so time-oriented. We only have X number of minutes to spend with patients, and X number of minutes to teach/educate/obtain nutrition history. I once heard a doctor say that if we only took the time to listen to patients, they would tell us everything that they needed in order to heal. This has inspired me to be a better listener.
This means interrupting less, asking better questions, holding more space for them to talk. And that in and of itself is healing and therapeutic. In my experience so far, I've found that the end result is a more optimal destination that we've both reached together; something far more ideal than if I had talked at them or told them what to do.
My good friend can read my facial expressions really well. He can tell right away from a split-second glance if I'm happy, stressed out, or upset. During a challenging time in my life, sometimes he would put me in his car and just ask how I was doing. My answers at first were superficial and concise- everything was bottled up inside like a big knot. He knew it was only the first layer of the onion- I am too much of a deep-thinker and over-analyzer to just be "fine."
He would always keep driving, and as the road unfolded before us, slowly I was able to peel away the layers. With each passing mile, I was able to understand and communicate and verbalize everything that I was experiencing. He did not offer advice. Like a good friend, he did what was best at the time- he just shut up and drove. And by the time we returned, I felt like a huge emotional burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I had more clarity and vision for my future and what I wanted. And he hadn't really even said a word.
In our personal and work relationships, it's important to remember that giving advice isn't always the best thing. Sometimes as a good friend or clinician, it's helpful to open the door to conversation, allowing space for the other person to be heard, and then steer wisely wherever the road and conversation leads. I've found out that you'll both reach your destination happier and more fulfilled if you do one thing- Shut up and drive.