Cultivating a Welcoming Space

By Lolly Wigall

The calendar says spring.  But, where I live the official last frost date is May 31.  So, spring is a couple of months away.  It doesn’t matter to me that I can’t be outside playing in the dirt.  I am planning gardens, both at home and at the church.  Garden planning is a creative exercise for me.  I can imagine bunches of flowers in bloom from early spring until late in the fall.  Trying to make reality match my imagination can be tough.  But, I try every year.

I plan, purchase, mulch, weed, water, and then stand back in awe as the plants come up and then bloom.

flw2My overall garden design is to have some plant blooming every place in my gardens from early in the season to near the end.  That can be complicated because there are shady areas, areas that receive partial sunlight, and full sunny areas. Some of my plants like early morning sun only and some like full sun all day long.  There are also favorite colors to take into consideration.  The diversity of plants is amazing.  Some have subtle blooms and others are real showstoppers–even at a distance.

I have favorite plants that seem to draw me in every year.  Then there are those pesky ones that aggressively take over not only their space but also their neighbors’ space in the garden.  I’ve had a few of those in my lifetime!  I have even grown weeds just because I thought they were pretty.  Sometimes I didn’t even know they were weeds.  I’ve decided that any plant can be considered a weed if it is growing where I don’t want it to grow.  So, then I have to decide whether to move it or get rid of it.

When I am creating a garden I also think about mood or atmosphere. I want to create a place where people are welcome to observe and enjoy the flowers.

Providing walkways and places to sit is important. Personally, I like to take naps in my hammock. I have two trees and I hang my hammock between them.  It is so relaxing on a hot summer’s day to just drift away.

hmkMaking a safe place to sit and relax in the garden is an important item in my plan for a beautiful garden.  Creating an experience for the person sitting outside looking at the flowers takes planning.  Do I want people to notice the garden as they are driving by?  Do I want showstoppers to be a constant or just periodically?   Do I want them to be drawn in to sit and meditate?  Do I have a place for people to sit and enjoy the garden, or do they have to just glance at it and move on?

Creating an outdoor space takes planning and work.  Creating an atmosphere for both work and play takes effort and constant vigilance.

Making a Safe Place for Patients

I am not a neat-nik in my garden nor in my office at work.  At work, I label the drawers so I can find my tools.   I try to carefully put the tools back where they belong so I can find them easily.  If they are not in their place, I am annoyed.  But, I have paper and files piled up in my office.  I tend to know where things are, but sometimes things get put on the back burner unintentionally.  Sometimes projects get buried or forgotten.  I try really hard to stay current with my patients’ files, but sometimes, most times if I am completely honest, I am behind.

I do work hard on creating a space that represents me and my interests.  On my walls, I display my framed diplomas, art that patients have painted and given me, and needlework that I have created, and on my desk is a family photo.

My goal is to create a space where patients and their family members can feel safe. But just as in my garden, that takes planning and work.

The office should be a comfortable place where it is easy to talk about serious topics such as family relationships and communication problems.   Patients should feel at ease when they are admitting that they have a hearing problem and need to address it.  Patients need to know I am paying attention to them and not just making notes in my chart about them.

Different Perspectives

This past year, I have supervised students from the local university who are in their second year of graduate school.  I have allowed the current student to do the interviewing and explaining of the test results, giving her more leeway in the interaction with patients.  After all, she needs to learn to listen to patients and explain the test results and the implications.

After a patient left last week, the student looked at me and said, “I was really surprised by the conversation between the husband and wife.  They were disagreeing with each other and I was uncomfortable with their exchange.  I don’t like confrontation.”

Hearing professionals often counsel couples together

I had the opposite reaction to the exchange between the husband and wife.  I thought the conversation was wonderful!  I judged that the husband and wife were openly sharing their feelings with each other.  The wife was exposing her frustrations with communication or lack of communication because of her husband’s hearing loss.  I told the student it was a real honor to be in the same room when a couple had such an exchange.  The patient and spouse obviously felt secure enough to discuss their situation openly in front of two strangers.

We had succeeded in creating a place where a person’s hearing problem and the impact it had on the spouse were openly discussed.  What a joy to be part of that.

The student was surprised by my reaction, but realized this was a new level of awareness of helping people handle and solve their hearing problems.  This was at the emotional level.  Creating a safe place to see patients involves an emotionally rich environment where patients feel comfortable to complain about their hearing and hearing aids. Having the right furniture and equipment is good, but creating a warm, inviting emotional environment is far more important if you want to really reach clients and help them hear well.

When a person hasn’t been in for a while and finally comes in again, I am relieved.  I am especially relieved when that person shares their frustrations with their hearing aids.

Only after they complain can I can take action to remedy the situation. I judge that I have created a safe place for that person to let me know their feelings.

I have been seeing patients since 1970 when I changed my major from history to speech correction.  I can count on one hand the patients I don’t ever want to see again.  Generally, I like to see my patients.  I do not see my patients as weeds to be pulled. I view my patients as flowers in bloom.  Some are more subtle and some are real showstoppers who like to be noticed.   I like to hear their frustrations, joys, and misadventures with their hearing aids.

tycaWhen I attend professional conferences, I often hear fellow audiologists complain about patients who come in to see them repeatedly.  I am stumped.  Personally, I judge that to be a good thing.  I judge that I have created a safe emotional environment for them to complain.  I tell them, “If you don’t complain, I can’t fix it.”

It takes patience and planning to help some patients bloom with their hearing aids.  Some notice differences right away, and some take a little more loving care to become comfortable in their space.

*images courtesy


  1. I now work in an ENT setting and no longer “sell” hearing aids, but Lolly is right on! I did own a private practice for over 12 yrs. and I always said and audiologist in private practice has to sell hearing aids or they won’t even be able to pay the rent! Hearing test, ear cleanings, balance testing etc. doesn’t cut it. One has to sell hearing aids to stay in business.

    Thank you Lolly, for the common sense article.

Comments are closed.