Empathetic Listening or Failed Listening?

I had to make myself fully understand as psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis patient that I need to practice empathetic listening. I know from experience people aren’t really listening to what I’m saying.

What is empathetic listening?

Exactly what is empathetic listening? It is an active process to discern what a person is saying. When we find ourselves living with a chronic condition, there are times when we want to be heard. We want someone to listen empathetically. Oh, yea, they tell us, they hear us, but in actuality, it goes in one ear and out the other. I’ve told my story to many since having psoriasis, but no one was actively listening. I can tell you how much pain I am having in my body because of my arthritis and I need to cancel and engagement. However; I have had people turn around seconds later and say, I’ll see you at the event. If I just told you that my legs are swollen and I'm having difficulty walking and I need to cancel, this lets me know you were not listening. You hear what you want to hear. This is not good at all.

What is failed listening?

What is failed listening? It’s so crucial and even sometimes critical to have empathetic listening. Do you know why? I recall, years ago talking to a friend and telling her I was having excruciating pain; my body temperature was going up and down, I was shivering and having stiffness to the point where I couldn’t move. She was so preoccupied with her own self and what was going in with her that she didn’t hear me. I was having an emergency and had to go to the hospital. I was erythrodermic. My psoriasis had exploded over 90% of my body. Failed listening was the result of this friend and I felt so alone at that time.

Becoming an empathetic listener

Do you know how to be an empathetic listener? As a patient with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis, people should be conscious of the person they are listening to. Be mindful of their conversation and their body language; don’t disengage the conversation. Learn to respect the person who you are listening to. When they are sharing important information about their symptoms; just lend an ear.

As a person with this disease, I know the necessity of empathetic listening. We deal with so many different emotions, such as, anxiety, tension, fear, and pain. Sometimes just you being there makes a world of difference.

I've dealt with all of these issues at some point or another. I'm glad I consider myself an empathetic listener for my peers and others. I make it my business to fully engage myself in the whole conversation. I know there have been countless time over the past 55 years with this disease that I just needed someone to be there.

Just listen

We all know depression is real when you are trying to cope with a chronic condition. When you are first diagnosed, it can be overwhelming and you just need to get it out; be there for us, don’t interrupt us. I don’t need advice, I don’t need you to tell me what will work for me or pity me, I don’t need to hear how many people you know that have this disease. I just want you to be there, so I can lean on you.

It has even been documented that it's a great healing mechanism for us. Sometimes it makes a difference in whether I am going to have a good day or a bad day. Just listen.

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