Do you know how to become an empathetic listener? What do you need this skill? Find out from this article.
Psychologists state that everyone needs to learn what empathetic listening truly means. Living in a society means that we all need to communicate out thoughts. Communication is a process that takes place between two people when one person is listening, and the other one is speaking. It seems that listening is the least difficult task of these two, but it might not necessarily be true.
You know that saying that people want to be loved and understood. It truly is so; that is why being an empathetic listener means that you try your best to understand what the person you are talking to s trying to say not only with his/her words but also with body language, tone, and emotions.
Furthermore, let us say you work with clients as a sales manager. The studies have shown that managers with better empathetic listening skills get are better at promoting their products and get much better reviews from the happy clients. As the researchers have stated, great empathetic skills are also of great use when you are trying to settle arguments. Knowing and seeing you actually listen, your opponent is more likely to compromise even if you do not accept his/her position. Otherwise, you create an atmosphere when your opponent feels unsafe and vulnerable.
Empathetic listening skills are used during all kinds of therapies. This listening is aiming to show the person a professional is listening to that s/he cares about his/her feelings, wants to understand all the core values and fears and help instead of just criticize or judge for them. Empathetic listening techniques are a little bit wider than just being compassionate.
While sympathy means that you feel sorry for someone, empathy means that you are trying to put yourself in his position and fully understand the situation from his perspective. This way a professional is trying to gain trust and build the close connection to the patient in an attempt to help him sort his troubles out. The goal of empathetic listening is to reflect on the problem from the perspective of the person in crisis and show him/her a way out of it.
The examples of empathetic listening show us that it is not a skill a person is born with. Sure, some people are more patient than others, and it is easier for them to listen to someone whose perception of the world they do not share. However, thanks to special techniques empathetic listening skills can be trained and developed with time.
On top of that, Steven Covey, one of the best-selling authors of books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, mentions that this type of listening is crucial to people working with clients as well as to individuals who want to be better speakers, friends, and leaders.
Building relationship with someone you love is one of the areas you need to be able to listen empathetically. It is crucial to listen to people carefully before making conclusions and judging them, as you can destroy relations you value a lot by being inattentive. Finally, being an empathetic listener can help you avoid conflicts that are never a nice thing to deal with. Furthermore, you will create an image of a person that cares about others and is capable of empathy. This will make people willing to be around you.
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But what should you do if you are not very good at empathetic listening, and you never had any examples of this around you? As we said, you can always master this skill. All you need to do is to practice. You can ask your friends help you by telling you the truth of how they feel about you and whether you are a good listener and what can make you better at this. Here are our tips on how to become a better empathetic listener.
- Make sure there are no distractions around you. If you have a cell phone in your hands and you get constantly distracted with new messages, put it aside. Be there for the other person, and focus on the words/he is saying. If you are a mom, and your child wants your attention, stop your friend for a second talk to your child and ask him/her to give you some time until you can play with him and return to the conversation. This will let the other person see that you are ready to pay the price and be there with her right at this moment.
- Invite the person to talk more. Make sure you do not interrupt, and you share enough yourself. However, this is not the only thing that is important here. Do not dominate the conversation, or you will kill the desire to speak more. Do not forget to show your genuine interest in what your friend is saying. Imagine yourself talking to someone who is looking around or yawning while you are sharing the deepest emotions of your heart. Not the best place to share something secret. So express your interest with body language as well as with your words.
- Make sure you understand everything clearly. In case some of the ideas are not quite clear to you, do not hesitate to ask more questions. This will encourage the other person to open up and will show him/her that you care enough to be asking questions.
- Be slow to make conclusions. Again, ask questions till the point where you understand everything and see the picture clearly before you make a judgment about the person you are talking to. And even more, try not to look bossy or arrogant. Whenever someone feels that you find his/her issues as unimportant, the start closing and avoid discussing further details with you. So do not think you know everything and try your best to see all the facets of the problem.
- Think about what is said. I know it seems like an obvious remark, but as the general studies show adults only listen to the other person speaking up to seven seconds before they get distracted. This is not an option for an empathetic listener. You actually need to try hard to reflect on the words of your friend/client/opponent. And this person can tell that you are listening and reflecting on his/her words by the way you sit, from the expression on your face and especially your eyes. Do not try to fake it, but rather do focus and think.
- Another example of empathetic listening is when you are listening to someone and look into his eyes. That is one of the easiest and yet strongest skills of an empathetic listening. The person that is talking will know that you follow his/her ideas and will be more likely to open up. However, you can scare someone if you are constantly looking into her eyes. Remember that you are not a policeman but rather a friend!
- Observe! An empathetic listener does not only listens to what someone is saying but is also reading what his body language has to add to the general picture of the story. Emotions might not always be present in the words, but you will definitely see them in the way s/he behaves. Be attentive to all the little details here.
- Do not forget to be in the conversation as well. Make sure the other person sees that you are listening. You can nod, or repeat the last words that were just said as a sign of you being attentive and active in the conversation.
Empathetic listening will help you build trust and become a better leader, friend, and an employee. Try practicing the skills of empathetic listening by following our tips and examples provided above and see how people’s attitude changes as you start listening to them with your undivided attention.
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