Below are 10 suggestions to becoming an empathic listener. Please share your thoughts on the validity of these statements and/or tell us why cultivating the habit of seeking first to understand requires so much effort to master.
1. Practice saying “take your time, I’m listening” and really mean it.
2. Set aside your own agenda.
3. Be available and receptive emotionally as well as through body language.
4. Try to appreciate the other person’s point of view.
5. Listen without being in a hurry to take over.
6. Try to imagine yourself in the other’s place: feel what the speaker feels.
7. Help draw out thought and feeling by asking questions.
8. Have the speaker elaborate for further understanding.
9. Say “Let me make sure I understand” and then restate the issue.
10. Be sensitive to the speaker’s feelings.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood, is a social principle which can be applied in various situations while in dialogue with others. As we mature in this practice our ability to communicate is enhanced and our relationships are deepened. We attain more clarity and understanding of the content, as well as the other person or persons.
We all know what it is like when someone is genuinely interested in hearing what we have to say in a spirit of cooperation and fellowship. We feel that our point of view is validated and that our opinions actually matter. This in turn enables a degree of trust, a quality of comfort by which we can freely speak our minds and demonstrate our personal truth without the fear of condemnation.
Often we emphasize on the delivery of communication, yet listening is just as crucial and requires much work. Dialogue needs to flow both ways in order for it to be effective and meaningful. But not just any kind of listening will suffice. Attentive listening and selective listening certainly have their place in acquiring information. Whereas deep authentic dialogue, that which is conducive to vibrant relationships, requires empathic listening.
Empathic listening allows one to enter more fully into another’s frame of reference. It requires a degree of courage & sacrifice to entertain an idea from someone else’s point of view, especially if it goes against our own beliefs, and in so doing we take the risk of having to rethink our own thoughts on the matter. By seeing things from alternative perspectives, we may come to recognize our own short-sightedness and by consequence have to change our stance. Regardless of the vulnerable position we put ourselves in through empathic listening, the very act can alter and transform the relationship itself, enabling both parties to better relate with one another and to genuinely seek solutions that are mutually beneficial.
Love & light,