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Listen with More Empathy

March 24, 2010

Have you ever had the experience of pouring your heart out to someone, only to feel like they haven’t heard a word you’ve said? That happened to me, not too long ago, and it left me feeling discouraged. It also made me take stock of my own listening skills and pay better attention to whether or not I was truly listening when people talked.

Listening—not just passively but with true empathy—is not only an important skill but a gift. It helps the listener feel truly heard and helps you connect on a deeper level. But how do you listen with empathy, let alone demonstrate that you’re listening with empathy? Here are some tips, some of which we covered at a recent training at work:

*put yourself in the person’s place mentally to imagine how he or she feels

*make and maintain eye contact

*have open body language (hands at your side or in your lap, arms uncrossed, etc.)

Closed body language

Closed body language can denote disinterest, instead of empathetic listening.

*keep focus on the person speaking

*nod in agreement

*restate what you’ve heard

*briefly share an experience to show you know where someone is coming from. (Keeping it brief will continue to keep the focus on them and not you.)

Today, I challenge you to listen with more empathy. It’s a gift you’ll give to both the listener and yourself.  We’d love to read your experiences, so please feel free to share your experience by leaving a comment here.

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