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.

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