Join Brenda Bailey-Hughes for an in-depth discussion in this video Empathize, part of Effective Listening.
- Listening with empathy takes time and energy, but it's well worth it as it builds the relationship between you and the speaker. When you watch an empathetic listener, you see them mirroring the emotion and even body language of the speaker. They usually are laser-focused on their speaker and they seem to not care about anything else that's happening in the room. Empathetic listeners pour themselves into the listening experience so that they can better understand the speaker's emotions and their feelings.
Since we talked about content earlier, a listener in an empathetic situation listens and paraphrases both emotion and content. This is a type of listening that has the potential to build trust and respect among both parties. Empathetic listening is important when you deal with conflict situations among members of your team, with staff who report to you or just listening to a colleague who's distraught about an issue. Expand past the immediate circle of professional colleagues to the realm of customers.
If you listen with empathy, if you show understanding for a challenging situation, you can diffuse emotion or even calm a frustrated customer. Empathy starts with the language that's going on in your head as the listener. While you listen, put yourself in that person's shoes and identify with her feelings. Tell yourself to completely immerse in the listening experience without judging or becoming distracted. Mind your nonverbals. Try to be a mirror to the speaker and if you speak, use acknowledging responses such as "I see. Uh huh." If you do verbally participate in the conversation, use sentence stems such as, "Tell me more about that." Or, "I can see why you feel so upset about this," "was that the first time this happened?" Or, "I would be frustrated too, what happened next?" As you listen, remember to honor the speaker's feelings and don't use any phrases that would discount them such as "It's not that bad. Don't get so upset over this." Or, "It's all going to be fine." Empathetic listening can be emotionally draining if you're not well-versed in it.
Practicing often will improve your skills and my suggestion is that you do it in situations that are not too emotionally draining to you. For example, listen to a soccer parent complain about her son's coach, not yours. Listen to a young adult talk about the drama created in her circle of friends, or a neighbor talk about a situation at work. Listening with empathy will set you apart in the workplace and your personal life. Identify when it's necessary and put your skills in action if you wanna be an overall better communicator.
- Recalling details
- Avoiding distractions and the feeling of being overwhelmed
- Clarifying your role
- Using attentive nonverbal cues
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Matching emotions and mirroring