I have recently been in the privileged position of being asked to accompany a friend to an appointment with a health care professional; the first step on the ladder to seeking and being reunited with a member of her family with whom she had lost contact.
As my friend suffers from some health issues, it was advisable to seek the opinion of the health care professional, before embarking on this pursuit.
We were expecting the health worker to be cautious, but hoped that this caution would provide us with the advice and strategies to put in place to ensure that my friend would be able to succeed in her quest.
Unfortunately, the health care professional did not or could not hear how important this was for my friend and instead began to dredge up issues that had happened in the past. She used complicated medical language and her position as a qualified medical expert to make my friend feel undermined and belittled. Not only did this hamper what we were trying to achieve, but also caused a great deal of confusion and upset.
This experience brought home to me the importance of listening to our customers, and not using our position as support workers to think that we know best. We must realise that our role is to listen to people and assist them to understand the consequences and responsibilities of their decisions, and then to support them to realise their dreams.
To not listen is to make a mistake; to not hear is to fail completely.