Engaging Empathy through Empathic Listening- “Seeking First To Understand, Then To Be Understood”
Article written by Gary Miller
Co-chair of events, Ambassadors Council
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is not to be confused with sympathy which can be described as a form of judgement.
There are four basic types of communication, reading, writing, speaking and listening. Of these, listening can be the most vital to effectively communicate and often receives the least training throughout our lives. Dr. Stephen Covey in his best-selling book “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” suggests that the key to interpersonal relations is to “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. This is at the heart of empathic listening.
Empathic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference, to understand their paradigm and how they feel. Empathic listening is far more than registering, reflecting or even understanding the words that are said. Communications experts summarize that only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say, 30 percent by our sounds and 6 percent by our body language. Empathic listening requires an individual to listen with their ears, their eyes and their heart. Through this practice you engage empathy by listening for feeling, for meaning and for behavior.
When empathy is displayed through our empathic listening actions with another person we make a deposit in their emotional bank account and give them psychological air. It is at this time that we can focus on influencing or problem solving.