Empathic Listening Skills

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Empathic listening is the most effective and engaged listening style.  Key principles of empathic listening are:

  • Repeat:  This shows you are paying attention
  • Rephrase:  Think about the other person’s agenda
  • Reflect:  Respond to both the message and the feelings
  • Rephrase and reflect:  This builds trust as the other person feels you are understanding and interested in the conversation

Here is a checklist to move you to EMPATHIC listening:

  1. Release your own tension and assume a posture that allows for listening.  This means to make yourself comfortable.  Be in a position that allows you to stay pretty still, one that makes you very relaxed and comfortable, without making you drowsy or putting you to sleep.  You want to be comfortable, but not cozy.  In other words, you may want to sit back in your chair, but not lay your head down or put your feet up.
  2. Perceive the speaker’s feelings, step into their thoughts.  Try to understand what the speaker is going through – what they are feeling about what he or she is describing to you.  You need to understand why they are angry, of how what happened made them feel sad.  You need to notice that they are frustrated, happy of some other emotion to help you understand, remember what is being said, and continue listening effectively.
  3. Silence your own sympathy and antipathy.  Once you have identified what the speaker is feeling, you have to avoid feeling the same emotion, sympathy, or antipathy for what he or she is saying.  Empathic listening involves a certain level of objectivity.  You try not to become emotionally charged.  Even though you note what the speaker is feeling, you remain neutral.  This way, your own feelings don’t cloud or influence what the speaker is saying to you.  When we add our own spin on the story, we tend to add things to the story or take things away from the story that the speaker wants heard.  We don’t want our past history to create judgments and influence your reactions to what is being said.

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