Empathic listening

This week I’ll be working on and improving my empathic listening.

What is empathic listening?

It is a communication technique that consists on understanding the person you talk with before you try to get your point across. It is more than just actively listening and paying attention to what others say. It is about making the other person feel heard and understood.

There are some things to look out for when practising empathic listening:

  • Focus the conversation on the other person and what is important to them. Be curious, ask more questions.
  • It is not about you or what you have experienced or the solutions you can offer. Avoid starting sentences with “I…”
  • Reflect back the other person’s feelings.
  • Listen without judging.
  • Observe the body language.
  • Don’t be distracted. Pay full attention to the person you are talking with, and avoid multi-tasking.

Experts suggest different strategies to practice this skill. I will try out the practical suggestions from Stephen R Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

During this upcoming week, I will do the following:

  1. Choose someone close to you and share that you’ll be practising with them this skill during the week. Then seek feedback at the end of the week. How did you make them feel? I have nominated my husband for this. He’s the one I will interact the most with during this time and I know he’ll provide candid feedback.
  2. Observe how other people interact (since we are on lock-down, I’ll do this watching TV). What does their body language say? What emotions are they expressing?
  3. Think ahead each meeting planned for the week and write down how you believe the other person sees the situation or project at hand before you talk to them. After your meeting, look at your notes. How well did you understand their point? Did you find out any new motivations?
  4. When you find yourself not doing emphatic listening, recognise that to the other person, and ask them to start again.
  5. Next time you interact with those ones you’ve been practising with, describe their perspective just as well as (if not better) they would do, and only then, put your point across within that frame of reference.

What are my expectations for this practice?

  • I hope to deepen my relationships
  • I hope to improve my communication with my (now remote) team
  • I hope to build more trust with those around me

Join me in this challenge! Practice consciously empathic listening in your day, and let me know what worked well for you, what things you found most difficult and what improvements you’ve experienced in your life, if any.

We’ve got this!!

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