Hear, Help, Or Hug

Hear, Help, Or Hug


Leonard Zwelling

I think it matters little whether the person in front of you is a world-class physician faculty member or a small child. Either may be asking you for something. I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of such asks from great faculty leaders and from my grandsons. In the end, it’s the same as the daughter of a close friend has observed. These are her ideas as conveyed to me by my friend.

They want you to hear what is their immediate concern, provide help with a pressing problem, and/or seek consolation from a perceived wrong—they want you to hear, help, or hug. The trick is to figure out which as quickly as possible and provide the remedy if possible.

This sounds awfully simple, but upon considering my past jobs and recent interactions with my grandsons, I think it’s about right.

When someone is talking to you, for certain they want you to hear what they have to say and respond to it. I think this is an essential part of psychiatric therapy. The patient must be heard and the therapist must respond upon digesting what was heard. It is certainly true in the practice of medicine. The history, the telling of the story of the present illness, is said to be the path to 90 % of diagnoses. Hearing is essential.

Helping is also essential in psychotherapy and medicine. After all that’s why patients show up. They are seeking help from caregivers of all kinds and each must listen and hear accurately in order to help.

This is also true of clerks in stores and customer service people on the phone. I find that neither seems to hear or listen and thus are rarely of help.

Finally, although it may seem most applicable to my grandsons, a hug can be therapeutic, too. It is one thing to hear. It is another to feel the message and respond with real empathy. This one is not for everyone you meet, but when used judiciously and selectively it can be very effective.

This is just a short little message to try to help improve your skills at hearing, helping, and hugging by being mindful of what is right in front of you many times a day. I have found it invaluable with full professors and five-year-old children.

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