In an earlier article, I showed you how how to develop Active Listening skills. Better listening helps your relationship with both yourself and others.
Listening has many layers. And a key component to good listening, listening that leaves the speaker feel that they have conveyed their deep message to the listener is empathy. You listen with the intention to understand what the person is saying and not saying. You stay there with the person, don’t offer judgement, advice or opinion. Essentially, you are a conduit on this journey they are telling you about. And this can be for something as banal as buying milk in the shop or as intense as a relationship issue.
When you focus on the person you are with and engage with their message without judgement, you move from understanding the words they are saying to understanding the deeper meaning and the feelings and motivations associated with their words and body language they display.
The Right Thing to Say
While we might want to know what the right thing to say is, most of the time, the silence lets the speaker delve even deeper. And when we want to say the right thing, the conversation isn’t about us.
Sometimes just being there, sitting in the space is all that is needed. Rather than worrying about what is right or wrong to say. Offer compassion and empathy through your actions.
Practice Empathic Listening
Empathy is the ability to feel for another person’s situation. Listening empathically requires you to understand what the speaker is saying (their explicit meaning through their words) as well as how that person feels about the issue (implicit meaning through their body language, reactions and tone of voice)
Why should I do this?
This further develops a core skill of helping one another learn. It develops your awareness and self-compassion.
Stop whatever you are doing. Give the speaker your full attention. Listen for the following:
- Overall substance
- Emotive Words
- Tone of Voice
- Rate of speech
- Inflection of voice
- Be alert to body language and facial expressions.
- Do not interrupt
Suspend your judgement, biases and analysis
Here, you may be tempted to offer advice. Do not do this, keep your mouth closed and your ears open. Be aware of what you are feeling and let them go. Otherwise, they will hijack your listening and presence and drown out what the person is saying.
Convey your understanding of the explicit and implicit meanings.
Here is where you can dig deep. Try to understand what the speaker is feeling. What the speaker is not saying. Understand the motives of the person and ask them if this is right? Let them explain to convey their message again so they feel heard.
Remain sensitive to signs of defensiveness or resistance. If you misinterpret the speaker’s intent or meaning, you will see this in their body language and/or facial expressions. If you missed these signals, go back to Step One!
Practice and prepare to be amazed by the conversations you have.
Everyone knows something you don’t and vice versa. Become open to listening and learning from everyone you meet.