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.

1 comment:

  1. So few of us even bother to simply listen, much less listen empathetically.

    Good list of reminders for regular discourse, even when people are not in stress or under pressure.