My recent racial awareness has been tough.
As a result of the Floyd, Brooks, and Taylor killings, among others, I’ve had a lot of conversations around racism lately, as I’m sure many of you have as well.
My most significant talks have been the long overdue awareness I’ve gained from my boyfriend/life partner on how racism and discrimination has effected him. I’ve shared some of my newly learned, eye-opening perspectives with several people and realized that everyone’s coming from a different place.
This topic is highly complex and I feel that a post is a poor method of collaboratively communicating. So, if you’d like to ask me questions, have me listen empathically to your stories, or work through some thoughts, I’m inviting you to talk with me one-on-one. DM me and we’ll set up a call.
In the meantime, I’m sharing the tip below. It’s helped me better understand and connect with my boyfriend’s experiences. Hopefully it will help you through these times as well.
Use “empathic listening” to deeply connect.
Empathic listening is similar to active listening, in that they both enhance engagement and a connectedness between the people involved, reflecting back what is said, without judgment and advice. However, when someone has deep emotions attached to an issue, we need to let go of having a two-way conversation, and enable one person to communicate on the subject. That means encouraging them to fully express themselves until they feel understood.
Both empathic and active listening methods require reading body language and other non-spoken forms of communication to find deeper meaning. For empathic 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 know what they are saying, we also need to understand their heart and soul. It’s about appreciating how they feel and why. This level of comprehension 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 the other person, 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, which may take many conversations, that we’ll be able to truly connect.
Take action: Empathic listening can be very difficult at first when you don’t have this sort of trust already built. 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. When there’s silence, be patient and watch for non-verbal signals of more to come.
:: Inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People