EMPATHIC LISTENING: A VITAL TOOL FOR HUMAN RELATIONS

In Satvatove Institute seminars, we often define “empathy” as the ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective. This means leaving aside our personal agendas, preconceived notions, and general views and beliefs in order to create the space for the person speaking to us to truly feel heard. When we begin to cultivate the skill of empathic listening we are able to hear the speaker without any personal need to be understood ourselves. We do not need to force our opinions or world views in a coercive or judgemental manner, we are simply entering the world of the speaker and creating a space from which true compassion can emerge and grow. Anyone who has attained a degree of mastery with this skill seeks to create the same level of attentiveness to people regardless of what is being said, and what they may feel or think about the content of the conversation. Through our experience with conducting hundreds (?) of seminars all over the world, the atmosphere that is created when empathic listening is being implemented is one that can lead to profound personal and group transformation. Though learning the process may seem tedious at first, the transformation that we have witnessed that has been catalyzed through this very simple method is unparalleled.

Attendees of the Satvatove Foundational Course begin to develop these skills and often report dramatic improvements in their interpersonal relationships and work life. The exercises in the Course teach participants to communicate in such a way that they are able to let go of some of what we call “roadblocks to communication,” and in doing so, are able to create more meaningful connection with the people in their everyday lives. Some of these include advice giving, ordering, offering sympathy or praise, and even agreement. This is not to say that these modes of communication are always roadblocks, but that they can be.  Through the processes that we offer one can begin to make that distinction and experience immediate improvement in the quality of listening, which in turn leads to an increased sense of being heard as well. We hold a fundamental belief that all people really want to be heard, and so understanding these processes offers vitally important tools for the challenges inherent to interpersonal relations, our intimate connections, family life, and career. A person who exercises a high level of mastery of these skills conveys understanding, a deep sense of the human experience, an ability to be there and see what others are going through in their journey of self-realization. This type of empathic listening is cleansing of our pain, and it lends itself to helping us see what we could not have seen before.

With empathic listening, I show that I  understand what your are saying, with all emotional content. I enter your world and demonstrate that I grasp your perception of the world. That doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with your worldview.

Benefits of Empathic Listening

Empathic Listening builds trust.

To the extent that I get that you understand me, I’m likely to trust you, and to share more. Also I am likely to listen to you when you offer to help me. In this way empathic listening creates a culture of trust.

Empathic listening fosters self-exploration.

By your use of empathic listening, sincerely endeavoring to understand me, I get to understand myself more clearly and profoundly. Another name for empathic listening is reflective listening, or mirroring, where you, in your own words, mirror back your perception of what I communicated. Just as a mirror helps me to see my physical self with more clarity, by your willingness to suspend your judgments and commit to play the role of a mirror for me, or by holding an emotional mirror, I am supported to see more vividly my feelings and thoughts.

Empathic listening leads to problem-solving

In the process of empathic listening I am very likely to gain insight into resolving my challenges and realizations about moving forward in my life.

From that place of deep empathy, being in your world I assume the perspective that each of us has the inner resources to handle our lives with excellence. Also in that place I trust in the life purpose of supporting self-realization. The process of empathic listening can be a powerful tool to evoke those resources. Even if I have a great idea for you, if I use my empathic listening capacities to facilitate you to arrive at the realization youself, you are more likely to commit to it, own it, and make it work for you in your life.

To Know is to Serve

Empathic Listening also provides a solid foundation for service. Whether in business, social services, medicine, or practically any vocation, an attitude of service is key- serving the client, the patient, the customer. In the field of medicine studies have indicated that higher empathy results in better diagnoses, greater patient satisfaction, fewer lawsuits, and numerous other favorable outcomes. Research has indicated that skill in empathic listening results in higher effectiveness in a multitude of professions, including police work, financial consulting, and factory work. To serve someone means that we understand their needs, fears, inspirations, and vision. That we can fully understand what it is like to be in their world. This is the essence of empathy.

Practicing Empathic Listening

As a practical exercise, I encourage you to consider someone with whom you are in conflict. This can be an overt conflict, or a tension that isn’t acknowledged on the surface. Write a few lines about your understanding of their worldview, remembering that understanding doesn’t mean agreement. Give your best effort in this written exercise to show a genuine grasp of what’s happening for this other person, without twisting or selectively filtering to serve an agenda of your own. Afterwards, use empathic listening with this person, and simply notice your experience.

Satvatove Institute is renowned internationally for its empathic listening, leadership and conflict resolution skills training.

Dr. David Wolf, author of Relationships That Work: The Power of Conscious Living- How Transformative Communication Can Change Your Life, has facilitated seminars and workshops worldwide, and has been extensively featured as an expert on empathic listening and conflict resolution strategies on media outlets including Fox News and CNN News.

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