Empathic listening is a communication skill that involves really understanding what the other person is talking about. It goes beyond active listening, which is one of the top interpersonal skills that employers valueWe will explore in this article how to become an empathic listener, what empathic listening skill is, and its benefits.

In active listening, you make an effort to consciously listen carefully to someone’s message. This is so that you can understand the complete thought. Active listening is an important skill that will help you succeed in your career.

On the other hand, empathic listening takes active listening to another level. You are listening by going deep into the zone of non-judgment and empathy. Empathy also means that you understand someone else’s feelings from their point of view by putting yourself in their shoes. Knowing how to empathize and relate to people can cultivate a better relationship.

Empathic listening is listening to someone while understanding their feelings and insights. This is by making a connection with someone by developing compassion and identification. You are communicating with a person, showing that you are taking time to hear them out, and showing that you care about them and their feelings. 

You need to listen patiently to the person speaking and hear them with an open mind even if you do not agree. It is the acceptance of the other needs and opinions which help improve mutual understanding and trust.

Qualities of an empathic listener

To become a good empathic listener, you have to develop excellent listening qualities. Here are some important listening qualities you’ll likely need.

1. Compassion

Empathic listening’s intent is to listen with care, compassion, and emotional understanding. You can demonstrate compassion by showing that you have the same emotional experience as the other person.

For example, if someone shares that he is having problems dealing with a difficult boss and that he is finding ways to eliminate stress at work, you can share your experience facing the same situation. But remember that the conversation is all about the other person and not about you.

2. Non-judgment

Non-judgmental listening is all about understanding the other person. Even if you do not agree with what the speaker has said, you do not criticize them either out loud or even to yourself. You set aside your views, opinions and don’t get distracted by your thoughts and feelings. Your goal is to simply listen and receive what someone is saying.

3. Trustworthiness

It is crucial that you keep confidential what the other person shares with you. They are sharing their emotional matters and showing vulnerability, so it is important that you show genuine respect for them. Trust is one of the most important factors in building a stronger relationship between two or more parties.

4. Patience

People usually lose their patience when listening to another person’s problem. There are no shortcuts in empathic listening, and being in a hurry does not help. The other person can immediately see that you are not interested in what he is saying through your body language, like the non-genuine smile and the restless look in your eyes when you talk.

The benefits of empathic listening

Here are some of the main reasons to practice empathic listening in your career.

1. Building working relationships

Demonstrating empathic listening builds lasting relationships, trust, and more positive interactions with people. By listening empathically, you create an atmosphere in which the other person feels comfortable expressing his feelings and emotions.

2. Helping you act considerately

Empathic listening is a skill that stretches you to act in a more considerate and compassionate manner. Expressing your compassion is an important way of communicating in building strong relationships with people. It creates an emotional connection with the other person by finding similar experiences. Once you have the habit of considering others’ feelings, you are more likely to act compassionately and kindly. 

3. Increasing productivity

Empathic listening can help increase your productivity. You are more likely to retain more information. You also understand your coworkers more and work better together as a team and minimize conflict.

4. Problem-solving

You have the ability to solve problems by understanding and feeling the other person’s perspective on an issue. With empathic listening, you do your best to stay in the moment and focus on the conversation, and not jump ahead hastily to solve the problem. When you value solving the problem, people become more comfortable opening up, resulting in winning people’s trust and confidence.

Empathic listening techniques

Empathetic listening is hard to do for some. Here are some tips to help you get better at it.

1. Create a safe space for communication

Creating a safe and comfortable space for the person can make them more likely to confide in you and share his thoughts and discuss issues. For example, if you are in a room, you can turn off or set aside any forms of distractions, like your computer or your smartphone. Make the person feel that you need to hear his views and that his voice is being heard.

It is also important that you compose yourself, appear calm, and act comfortable. This will also make them calm and comfortable in sharing with you.

2. Pay attention to body language. 

Body language is the use of attentive posture, comfortable eye contact, gestures, expressions, and intensity to match the speaker’s.

Using positive body language conveys an open and friendly demeanor. It is the best way to get other people to like you because it makes others perceive you as open, amicable, and sincere. Also, it can ultimately help you build good working relationships, become more persuasive, advance in your career, and succeed in life.

Negative body language (otherwise known as defensive body language) is not necessarily bad. In fact, they may amplify your message so that you can effectively convey unhappy or displeased emotions.

Understand body language and how you can use this to your advantage by taking the Body Language: Communicate More Effectively online course.

3. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions 

The main reason why asking open-ended questions is an effective way to listen empathically is because it encourages a person to give a full and meaningful explanation. This invites for a longer response, providing more information. As a result, you gain a better understanding of that person. It also encourages a person to take control of the conversation’s direction and help express himself more. 

4. Wait for your turn to speak. 

Part of being an empathic listener is holding your opinion unless the other party asks for it. It is the practice of listening attentively and being responsive to others’ input. Just listen to the other person and actually hear what he is saying. Resist the urge to fill the moments of dead air with your thoughts, opinions, or feelings. 

However, you can ask open-ended questions to continue the flow of conversation. You can ask, “Tell me more about what happened.” or “How does this incident make you feel?”  

5. Let the other person guide the conversation.

Communication is a two-way street, but we need to remember that empathic listening is all about the speaker. The discussion should always revolve around the person you are talking to. Let the other person share his feelings at their own pace and get them to talk more.

6. Stop giving unsolicited advice.

Nobody wants unsolicited advice. Giving unsolicited advice to someone can only contribute to a relationship or communication problem. Although your intentions are pure and you just want to help someone by giving your advice, it can sometimes make them feel like you are giving them criticism and that you are judging them.

Sometimes, people just want to tell their problems and be heard and understood. They want to feel supported and process their standing on their problem. If you want to give your advice, seek permission before you offer your suggestions or opinions. Unsolicited advice isn’t always helpful. Here are some examples when you want to ask if they are open to your advice.

Is there anything I can do to help?

Are you open to suggestions?

Can I share my thoughts about your situation?

I had a similar problem. Do you want to know what worked for me? 

7. Give your undivided attention.

Giving your full focus and attention shows respect and genuine interest in what someone is saying. It shows that you want to develop a stronger understanding of what is being conveyed, both emotionally and intellectually. This wins trust as you make them feel validated and seen. Show someone your undivided attention by turning off or removing any forms of distractions, such as a computer, television, and your mobile phone. Also, avoid multitasking while listening because you cannot give your full attention if you do this. Lastly, don’t interrupt when the person is still talking, and you should listen more than you speak.

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