Empathy – the key to effective listening

Empathy – the key to effective listening

How many times have you heard the phrase, “he/she never listens to anything I say” or even worse, “he/she just doesn’t understand me”. In this age where everything and nothing has our true attention, it is appropriate to ask ourselves are we really listening to the person talking to us? Indeed, are we giving them enough attention to really hear and empathise with what they are saying.

The best conversationalists are those who listen effectively. Why? Because they are giving us their attention, they are interested in what we are saying, and we all like to feel that our conversation is interesting and of importance. To listen and empathise at the same time however, is a very powerful way of connecting to someone and creating or consolidating rapport.

So how can we empathise?

Imagine someone says to you, “My clients are so demanding, no matter what I do for them, it never seems to be enough”

There are three ways we can empathise and thus make the person feel that they are being listened to and understood:

  1. Mimic: say the sentence back to them to show you are hearing them, e.g. “Your clients are really demanding then”
  2. Rephrase: Here we would say something using our own words to show our understanding, e.g. “Your clients are asking a lot of you and they never seem satisfied”
  3. Reflect and rephrase: This is the most powerful way to demonstrate empathy as it shows you are understanding what they must be feeling, e.g. With your clients demanding so much of you, you must be feeling quite stressed and overworked”

All these responses will show that you are listening, but where we can link what the other person is saying to an understanding of an emotion they must be feeling, the connection with the other person becomes very solid. By putting yourself in their postion you demonstrate pure empathy and will be regarded as a person who cares.





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