5 Tips for Funeral Professionals Who Want to Improve Their Listening Skills
Posted January 31, 2018
5 min read
“Our number one responsibility that we’ve always felt is that our families come first,” says Denise Mercier, a Funeral Director at Geo. H. Rohde & Son Funeral Home.
“Steve Rohde, the Director, President & Owner of our funeral home, has always instilled that in us,” she says.
Mercier graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science with her BMS in Mortuary Science. She has been with the Rohde Family for more than seven years. (Geo. H. Rohde & Son Funeral Home is also a current CRäKN customer.)
One of the fundamental ways in which Geo H. Rohde & Son Funeral Home cares for its families is through listening to families’ needs and desires.
Here are 5 tips from Mercier on how to be a great listener:
1. Be in the moment. Not thinking about what else you have to do-or not focusing too much on what your reply is going to be is helpful when it comes to active listening. Being mindful enough to remove any distractions can make this easier, explains Mercier.
“You are communicating with them in a way to initiate things and to take a little bit of the burden off of them,” says Mercier. “That’s also why you want to be proactive with communication and organized with your communication.”
2. Give families the time they need. Many people need time to process information, and it’s no different when they are having a conversation with you. That’s why you want to be sure to try not to interrupt when talking with families.
If you interrupt, it doesn’t allow someone to explain what is on their mind. It also can send the unwanted signal that you “know what is best” or that you don’t truly care what the family has to say, explains Mercier.
Second, in general, recognize some people take longer than others to seek certain kinds of information. That’s why Geo. H. Rohde & Son Funeral Home offers grief resources on their website so that families can access that information when they see fit.
“We have found that families will reach out months after a service in order to seek certain information such as our grief library,” says Mercier. Having that information available online goes a long way to continue to support families, no matter what stage of grief they are in. “It can be some time afterward when they connect everything and want those materials available to them,” explains Mercier. “That’s why we have that out there.”
3. Watch your body language. “Listening is more than just having a family talk to you. It’s your body language. It is their body language. It is also: What stage of grief are they in?” says Mercier.
Be aware of what your body is communicating to family members. Are you open, inviting and encouraging trust? Are you making eye contact and nodding when appropriate? Is your posture natural and as relaxed as possible, while still maintaining professionalism?
4. Be open to what you’re going to hear. Approaching each family with compassion and warmth goes a long way; similarly, make sure you are open to what a family says they want and desire. If you have any bias or preconceived notions, do your best to put those aside and to suspend any judgements.
“Not every family walks in and knows exactly what type of services or what kind of experience they’re looking for. They don’t always know [what is] available to them.” It’s your role to help educate them, and make sure they are aware of all of their options so they can come to a decision they feel is best, says Mercier.
5. Ask questions to dig deeper.
Be intentional about being an active listener, says Mercier. That means asking follow-up questions to be sure that things are clarified and so that true wants and needs are uncovered.
A useful tip: When possible, start questions with, “what,” “why,” and “how” rather than asking questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” alone.
Being an active listener and asking these empowering questions takes practice, but once you develop the skill, you’ll start to see the benefit you bring your families in the process.
“We really pride ourselves in putting families first. Anything you can do to ease their anxiety or stress level, throughout the process, is what we strive for-and that is especially important when communicating with them,” adds Mercier.
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