One of the most valuable personal growth skills we can learn is empathic listening.
It’s a skill that not only serves others, but also one that stretches us to become more compassionate and patient people. It’s an important skill to master both for your personal and professional interactions.
What is empathic listening?
Empathic listening affords tremendous value for someone struggling with a problem, as it allows them to solve their own difficulties in the company of a caring empathetic listener.
As the speaker hears himself talk, he gains more clarity about his problem and becomes better equipped to find a resolution.
When someone feels heard, an emotional burden is lifted, and they feel less stressed and confused.
As an empathic listener, you empower the speaker to greater self-esteem and self-awareness simply through your willingness to hear them.
Empathic listening is not an easy skill to master, mainly because most of us would rather talk than listen.
Also, it is often required when the speaker is in pain, angry or upset.
Empathic listening requires that we accompany a person in her moment of sadness, anguish, self-discovery, challenge (or even great joy!).
Active empathic listening isn’t part of a conversation in the traditional sense.
There’s no give and take, sharing dialogue, or competing to talk.
With empathic listening, it’s all about the other person and what they are trying to communicate — with their words, with the words left unspoken, and with their emotions.
As an empathic listener, you must be willing to do the following:
- Allow the other person to dominate the conversation and determine the topic discussed;
- Remain completely attentive to what the other person is saying;
- Avoid interrupting, even when you have something important to add;
- Ask that invite more from the speaker;
- Avoid coming to premature conclusions or offering solutions;
- Reflect back to the speaker what you heard them say.
This requires a willingness to put yourself in the shoes of the other person so they feel heard in a non-judgmental way. Empathy allows the speaker to feel safe, acknowledged, and valued.
Even when you can see what you think is the best course of action, your role is to facilitate their awareness and help them reach their own solutions. It is much harder than it might appear.
Most of us want to help. We want to give people solutions and tell them what we think. This is usually done from a sincere desire to improve their lives, but it’s a knee-jerk reaction because, as a culture, we are so solution-oriented.
We grow impatient and agitated with too much discourse and too little resolution.
If you would like to improve communication and learn to be a more empathetic listener, I can help!
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