This article has been published in the Vancouver Sun. June 11 2012
The simple act of listening may be one of the most effective and least expensive medicines around. A friend of mine, a physician, told me of an experience when he was working in Ontario as a family practice doctor. After a long and difficult day, seeing countless numbers of very sick individuals, he was faced with a patient who was furious at being kept waiting. He recounted, “My first, instinctual response was to return the anger and tell him the day I was having… but I didn’t. Instead I listened, and the patient’s anger quickly changed as he recounted the list of terrible things that had recently happened in his life. My heart went out to him. I completely understood his anger and more importantly the fuel behind it … grief and fear. I listened and tried to be supportive where I could. Eventually he decided he didn’t really need his prescription refill after all, (he remembered he had refills at the pharmacy), and as we both got up to leave he stopped me at the door and told me he felt so much better than when he had come in! In fact, this was the best he had felt in weeks! I was stunned; what had transpired was truly amazing to me. No high-powered tests, and no potent prescription drugs and yet the patient felt much better. Sometimes the best “medicine” is simply becoming an empathetic, compassionate listener.” …..