Empathetic listening is similar to active listening in that they both enhance engagement and a connectedness between the people involved. However, when someone is emotionally attached to an issue, we need to go beyond active listening to truly understand them. That means going beyond a two-way conversation and encouraging one person to fully express themselves and feel understood.
Both empathetic and active listening methods require reading body language and other non-spoken forms of communication to find deeper meaning. For empathetic listening, we don’t try to form our reply or next question in our head while the other is talking. Nor do we try to relate from our own perspective, or solve their problem from our point of view.
To truly see the world from another’s way of thinking, we not only need to get inside their head, we also need to understand their heart and soul. It’s about understanding how they feel. This takes time and patience and is not something that we can control or direct. We need to let go of our self-serving desires, and open up to being influenced by them, which means we will be vulnerable like they are. It’s not until we fully understand how they feel and what really matters to them, that we can help them find a meaningful solution.
Take action: Empathetic listening can be very difficult at first because you don’t have trust already built in this area. It gets easier over time, but initially, you may need to be upfront and say that you are trying to fully understand how they feel without “fixing” them. Note to parents: this method really helps when trying to connect with teenagers.
:: Inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
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