Being a health care provider can be stressful. Having healthy habits in place can mitigate stress and help you be better at your job! (Part 3 of 4)
Healthy Habit 5: Understanding is more Important than being Understood
Of all Covey’s seven habits, it is possible that none is more applicable to medical school than number five. In simplistic terms, what Covey is saying is that you are speaking or preparing to speak, and that although you may hear what is being said, that does not necessarily mean that you are listening.
Communication is an exchange of thoughts in which both parties must actively be engaged in listening and speaking or it all falls on deaf ears, so to speak. Covey also theorizes that when people do listen, they tend to listen for the wrong reasons and need to learn why and how to listen for the right reasons.
There are those who listen for the sole purpose of disseminating a reply, and those who listen to understand. For a doctor, listening only to reply means you have already made your mind up on a course of treatment or non-treatment without all the relevant information.
Look at it this way; would you prescribe a powerful medication to a patient based solely on their complaint of chest pain? If you’re competent physician, you absolutely would not. You would ask questions and schedule tests if needed so that you could develop an understanding of the problem to treat it correctly.
This form of listening is known as emphatic listening. That is a fancy way of saying that you are listening with the intent to gain understanding. It is with understanding that what has been heard can be used to its best value.
This is hardly a skill that can be developed over the weekend. Emphatic listening, for most, takes considerable practice. Covey contends that we are never taught how to listen and therefore must put considerable effort into breaking bad listening habits we have developed over a lifetime. He stipulates, that with effort, it will make you a better med student and a more effective doctor and communicator in all aspects of life.
Healthy Habit 6: Achieve Synergy
Synergy, or believing the whole is greater than its parts, is why some people will say that one plus one does not equal two, but rather three or more. Two heads are better than one. Cooperation, open mindedness and creativity are all synergistic and allow fractions to come together to create immensely powerful wholes.
According to Covey, this habit will only work if you have already developed the previous five habits. Synergy is what ties all of these habits together, taking the parts and melding them into something far greater. It is said that once you do this and accept that you are working toward a common goal together, everyone will listen to each other, everyone will win, and great things will be achieved.
Synergy is in many ways about wisdom, but mainly the wisdom to identify and value differences. Even though we may all be looking at the same thing, because we are individuals, we will view it differently. If we look at this as a benefit rather than a hindrance, we then create endless possibilities.
As Covey points out, the problem is everyone would rather just agree they see the same thing the same way and move on which stifles creativity and therefore creates a synergistic rut that holds everyone back.
While Covey fully believes synergy can help you get through medical school to some degree, he believes it is invaluable to your medical career. Teamwork and open mindedness created through synergy is what builds the backbone of a hospital. It is through embracing our differences and celebrating diversity that greatness is achieved and may possibly save a life that you could not have saved alone.