Empathic Listening – Active Listening
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Active listening is an intent to “listen for meaning”. Active Listening is not just an automatic response to sounds. It requires a listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what he or she heard.”
I used to credit my success as a consultant in business to knowing when to ask the right questions. In retrospect, I see that when my clients spoke, I was listening, and so of course I knew what questions to ask, when. The psychic in me, coupled with my training, naturally led me to empathic listening, being fully attentive, listening with my whole self, noticing the subtle queues, tone of voice, body language. Even pauses in a conversation can be telling – when you’re really listening.
Active, empathic listening makes it a lot easier to resolve disputes, to kind of cut problems off “at the pass”…. many relationships would avoid escalating small issues into major battles if they took time to really listen to each other.
A client recently asked about getting a puppy. She had a particular breed in mind, but was concerned about her husband’s willingness to accept this new being into their home. In the reading, I could see that her husband had some valid concerns so I suggested that she rethink, not only the choice of breed, but the age of the dog. Since her husband was concerned about the amount of work involved in house-training a dog, I also suggested that they employ a dog-walker, as well as a trainer and to invest in doggie daycare since they both work away from their home. As I expected, once her husband felt he had been heard, that his objections were being addressed, he was happy to support her in finding the right dog to fit their lifestyle.
This is active, empathic listening at its best. As psychics, empathic listening is at the foundations of our work. Empathic listening enables us to tune into the energy around our clients, to feel what they are feeling so we can follow the threads of energy to see where they are going. Active listening opens the door to simple solutions as it did for my client and her new dog.
How to improve your empathic listening skills:
- Focus: Stop what you are doing and thinking, clear your mind of distractions, give your full attention to the speaker. Don’t be thinking of what you’re going to say next until there is a pause in the conversation… and don’t make assumptions!
- Make eye contact: Acknowledge the speaker by looking them in the eye, follow them with your eyes when they move around. Your eyes tell the speaker that you care what they are saying, as much as your words do.
- Notice the body language: Pay attention to posture, gestures, how the head and limbs are moving during the conversation – and notice your own, as well as the speaker’s. If your arms are crossed, or hands are on your hips, you’re not sending the right messages, so the speaker is apt to shut down.
- Respond, engage in the communication: React to your speaker’s words, even an Uh Huh, lets them know you’re taking in their words. But active listening suggests that you be listening with intent to keep the conversation moving forward, so you will want to use words like, “Oh, yeah? and then what happened? How did you feel about that? What did you think when…?” Ask for clarification, reflect what’s been said back in your own words.
- Avoid judgment, be affirming: Keep your opinions to yourself until you are asked. Empathic listening is about listening with compassion, being open to the other’s position, willing to understand where they’re coming from, affirming that their opinions, their thoughts and feelings matter to you.
- Feel: Notice how you feel, as well as how the other feels, feel the energy in the room, but observe rather than react to the feelings.
Empathic listening (also called active listening or reflective listening) improves mutual understanding and trust. Empathic listening makes the other feel good about sharing with you…it encourages a real conversation, and thus creates the space for new information, knowledge and understanding to surface. In listening with your whole self, you show the other that you appreciate and respect them, and that you are sincerely interested in them…. and this encourages them to keep communicating with you. Which also means that it can be a whole lot easier to resolve issues and find suitable compromises when there are conflicts.
In our love relationships, greater communication brings greater intimacy. Parents listening to their kids helps to build their self-esteem. In the business world, listening saves time and money by preventing misunderstandings. And we always learn more when we listen than when we talk.