The Benefit of Listening, Connection, and Touch

| Jeff McKillop |

I read a lot of journal articles.  Most are dull and sometimes hard to slog through. Every now and then, however, I come across an article that is somewhat beautiful and charming.  One such article is a recent one by Alan Bonsteel published in the November 2013 edition of the Canadian Family Physician.

In this short article, Dr. Bonsteel reflects on his relationship with an early mentor, Dr. Zane Kime, and how that relationship shaped Dr. Bonsteel’s future practice.  What struck Dr. Bonsteel the most was Dr. Kime’s capacity to provide a kind and gentle approach to all that he helped.   Dr. Zane had the ability to understand and listen to the needs of those he was helping and he understood that the prerequisite to any change is to first establish a caring human connection.

Dr. Bonsteel also described a brief clinical study that he and Dr. Zane conducted.  Dr. Zane asked those he was helping if they might consider possibly improving their diet and level of exercise.  For one-third of these people, the request was face to face.  The next third, Dr. Zane sat beside each person when making his request.  And for the last third, Dr. Zane placed his hand on each person’s shoulder when asking for a change in diet and exercise.  The best outcome was with those whom Dr. Zane touched on the shoulder.

The point here is to highlight the importance of a caring relationship and the role of both verbal and nonverbal communication.  Touch, within a caring and nonthreatening relationship, serves as an emphasis and a method of collecting the other person’s attention.  It is a way of focusing the other person and highlighting that this message I am sending you is important.  It is a simple, yet powerful, way of communicating.

Keep in mind that we rarely change or alter our behavior for just ourselves.  Instead we change for others and in their presence, because they have asked us to and it is important to them.

All change begins with and within a relationship.

hug

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