Develop Your Listening Skills: Empathic Listening

Lifehack.org has a list of 5 Tips for Empathic Listening posted today. It’s a short posting, but contains some useful information. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes empathic listening this way:

When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm.

Covey goes on to say:

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgement … The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually. (p240)

My own listening skills aren’t always what I’d like them to be. It’s extremely easy to become overwhelmed with the day to day. Most people tend to respond to this by tuning out a great deal of what’s going on around them in order to get the most urgent things done. Unfortunately, we also tend to tune out some of the most important things in our lives.

As an example, how many parents ahve gotten fed up with a nagging, whining child and told him or her to “go away” or “do it because I said so?” I think we’ve all done this from time to time without even thinking. Sure we feel bad about it later, but our parents reacted the same way with us, didn’t they?

I’ve found that taking a moment to look my child in the eye and really listen can sometimes short circuit the nagging and whining almost immediately. Often, their discontent is based on a feeling that they aren’t being heard. It’s amazing how well children respond when an adult treats them like a person, not as another adult, but as a person, an individual with a unique perspective and his or her own needs and desires.

Children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this attention, either. Every interaction we have on a daily basis could be enhanced in some way by raising the level of our communication. This doesn’t have to be a heart to heart chat with the bank teller, but more of an intention to really try to understand where the people we encounter every day are coming from.

The Lifehacks posting is a nice, quick guide to trying this out in your cmmunications. For a more in-depth discussion, I definitely recommend the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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7 Responses to Develop Your Listening Skills: Empathic Listening

  1. Terri Dotson says:

    I agree with you. Taking the time to listen…to hear someone solves, even prevents, more problems than not listening creates. And tho verbal communication is improtant, sometimes it is even MORE important that one pays attention to non-verbal communication. We speak so much more loudly to those listening when we speak non-verbally.

  2. Ray says:

    Well said. I’ve read that somewhere between 70% and 90% of all communication between people is non-verbal.

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  6. Hafeez says:

    May I have “Listening Skills” Tutorials

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