Sunday, March 6, 2011

Empathic Listening or the Art of Giving Psychological Hugs

When we listen empathetically, we are giving the speaker a psychological hug.  To listen empathetically, we:

1. Give the speaker undivided attention. Be present. Multitasking is a big conversation killer and causes us to miss important parts of what was said.

2. Allow the speaker to speak free of interruptions.

3. Are non-judgmental. We do not criticize, teach or tell the speaker what to do.

4. Don’t minimize or trivialize the speaker’s issues. Avoid phrases like “Its not that bad” “Its ok” “It’ll be fine” “Its no big deal”

5. Don’t change subjects. It shows that either you are not interested or you are not paying attention.

6. Don’t ask probing questions as if to interrogate the speaker. You seek to understand, not to satisfy your curiosity.

7. Appreciate the emotions behind the words. Is the speaker angry, scared, hurt, confused, discouraged, frustrated or resentful?

8. Resist the urge to reply or comment merely to keep the words flowing. Give the speaker some quiet after he has vented. Allow time for insights to surface. Give the speaker time to access his unconscious mind.

9. Assure our understanding and care. Ask clarifying questions, and restate what we perceive the speaker to be saying, like a mirror.

10. Establish and maintain rapport with the speaker. Neuro-linguistic programming has a set of rapport tools that are useful for emphatic listening.

Being understood, validated, and appreciated are basic human needs. Empathic listening meets these needs especially when the speaker is in distress.

Emphatic listening heals because it is like giving the speaker a psychological hug.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Empathic Listening - Hearing with the Heart

Stephen Covey identified 5 levels of listening.

Level 1 - Ignoring – basically, not listening at all.

Level 2 - Pretending – same as not listening but dressed up with head nods, and lip service like “uh-huhs”, “oh yeahs”, “I see”, and such.

Level 3 - Selective Listening - hearing only parts of was said.

Level 4 - Attentive Listening - paying attention only to the words being said.

Level 5 - Empathic Listening – The highest form of listening and the most healing. Empathetic listening uses all our senses, of hearing, seeing, feeling, and noticing non-verbal cues to understand the speaker’s feelings, in addition to his ideas. (Emphatic listening is also called active listening or reflective listening.) Emphatic listening is like hearing with the heart.

In level 1 to 4, the listener is self centred. They are busy forming and rehearsing their reply while the other person is speaking. The listener remains in her map of the world. There is little empathy with the speaker.

In level 5, the listener is other centred i.e. focused on the other person. In empathic listening, the listener intends to understand the other person, his feelings, emotions, and the essence of the other person’s issues. The listener aims to get inside the other person's frame of reference, understanding their map of the world.

Being understood, validated, and appreciated are basic human needs. Empathic listening meets these needs, especially when the speaker is in distress.

Emphatic listening is a powerful trust and relationship building skill (that few have mastered) because a friend in need is a friend indeed.