We were taught to read, write and speak. Not many of us were taught to listen, or at least listen solely to understand. Empathic listening, when used effectively is a powerful tool of communication that gives the ability to strengthen relationships and trust of those around you. The idea is to "seek first to understand, then to be understood" (Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 2004:239). It is listening with your eyes, ears and heart as body language can convey many issues that may not be said verbally. Feeling like someone is really listening makes you feel cared for and valued, hence the building of trust and a stronger relationship naturally follows.
What is the format of Empathic listening?
The format for the feedback is "you feel (how/what) about … (context)". This should be embedded in a natural statement, e.g. it sounds like "you feel… about …"
There is no exact wording, the aim is to truly understand their position and feed it back. However, there are several things you must not do, these are:
- Judge what you hear
- Advise on what they should do
- Evaluate their position
- Take an emotional position
- Probe or question what they say
Your role is simply to listen with the intention to understand. Discovering that you are already good at something is just as valuable as discovering that you have scope for improvement.