Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills: Empathetic Listening & Empathy

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills: Empathetic Listening & Empathy

“Understanding other’s feelings. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes in a difficult time, and/or being ‘non-judgmental’”(2005-2012)

Empathy simply means “understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.” (2005-2012). Being an empathic listener means giving your undivided attention. You need to focus on the speaker and not become distracted. Ask questions, if you are unsure. It’s ok if you don’t understand something they say. You are being a better listener if you fully understand them, so always make sure you do. There are always emotions with everyone, to be a better empathic listener read their emotions. Focus on their feelings, and respond when needed. However you don’t need to respond right away, sometimes absorbing the information makes you a better listener. Sometimes silence makes the speaker say more. Don’t be so quick to judge the speaker or anyone in the “story”. Being non- judgmental lets you focus on the issues and manage your understanding.

Empathy according to Jay Clarke, business man of 19 years, says “is the ability to put one’s self in the shoes of another even if only for a moment.” (2011) I think that is the biggest step for people to think. Often we are quick to perceive and judge another, or simply say “if that was me, I would do…” Often we over look what it’s like being in their shoes. A perfect example is my sister-in-law. She has tires that need replaced, her two children need new shoes, and she goes and parties. I over look her situation when she talks to me because I automatically think, wow how selfish of her. However instead of putting myself in her shoes and being an empathetic listener and see why she does it that way, I am too quick to judge. Needless to say, maybe she is so stressed and doesn’t know how to balance a budget, or she feels relaxed and uses her extra money to go out and enjoy herself and not focus on what needs to be done. When trying to focus on being an empathetic listener it’s actually harder than just doing it. Focusing on not being distracted, giving your undivided attention, and avoiding disruption on purpose is actually harder than letting it come natural.

The more empathy you have the more, I feel, you understand where the speaker is coming from. While having a conversation with my husband, just out of the blue, I realized how well of an empathic listener he was. He let me talk and talk, didn’t interrupt me and let me get all my emotions out. When I asked a question he would speak, otherwise he just looked at me and it felt like he actually cared and wanted to understand what I was saying. I feel I learned how to become a better listener by putting myself in his shoes, learning what he did, and feeling what he felt. While talking on and on I realized I just kept talking because I wanted to see if his views changed. What challenged me was I seemed to get distracted after focusing on him and what he was actually thinking throughout the conversation. I knew this was experimental conversation, so I led the story into different feelings. I began to change the tones of my voice to see how we both would react. When you realize someone feels bad for you, they change their tone, and I also feel people, milk it for more because they are getting undivided attention from the listener.

Reginald Adkins states the techniques, to become an empathetic listener, into five straightforward steps. Follow these five steps and you can “avoid disruptive and assaultive behaviors”. Reginald Adkins says step one is “Provide the speaker with your undivided attention” do not try to “multi-task” if could result in trouble. Step two is “Be non-judgmental”. In other words don’t be so quick to judge. Step three understands the situation of the speaker. “Observe the emotions behind the words”. If you can see in the speaker is afraid, you will understand them more and be “non-judgmental” and may have more to offer. Maybe the speaker needs a hug or a pat on the back. They may not feel like they are doing what really needs to be done. Step four is don’t always speak up, wait for the right moment. “Don’t feel you must have an immediate reply”. Sometimes your silence will let them speak more they are holding back. And lastly, step five. You know the saying “the only dumb question is the one not asked” well it’s true. You want to be clear as to what the speaker is saying. If you don’t understand ask for assurance. Every situation is different. to be the best empathetic listener I feel is learned behavior. If you can take these five steps and remember them when listening to someone else, put yourself in their shoes and use these steps. You will see how different the conversation is than before you learned this. All behavior is “learned behavior” it can be adjusted when needed.

After writing this essay and researching information for it, I have learned two things. Two things I may have already knew, however, never focus on using them and working with them. I have learned the more focused you are and in-tune with the conversation, the more you understand the person. The more you understand then and know where their coming from, the more of an empathic listener you are. When you really focus on a conversation you are having, you need to be “all there” and not be worried about what your having for dinner. The speaker in a story can feel when you’re listening and when you’re just say “oh yea I get it” or something like that. The other thing I learned was the more the “story” relates to you, the more you can offer and become more of a listener. For example, my sister studies Psychology at a Master level, and I can relate to her stories because we have a lot in common. However, my husband works in Corrections and I haven’t a clue anything about it. So talking to my sister verses my husband is different. I can sit and talk with my sister for hours about a small topic, however can only last with my husband for 20 minutes on his topic. I believe that is why I chose my sister, April, to do the interview assignment. I knew she could describe me, my skills with listening more than he could. According to the interview with April, in April of 2012, I was being perceived as myself. It was nice to see how people thought of you, whether or not they thought you listened well to others. One thing that touched my heart from the interview was Question eleven about appreciation, she stated “Has the biggest heart and is always compassionate of others no matter the circumstance” (April) I felt my emotion intelligence come into play when she said that. Another point I took from the interview that shows how much of an empathetic listener I am was that I ask questions. To me that is important. You want to make sure you know what they are talking about to be on the same page as them. I don’t realize I do this. During a recent Interview I was asked, how to you think your communication is, if you told and a co-worker how to do something and they didn’t understand how you would communicate with them. My answer was communicate; ask questions, till we both understand it. She said couldn’t have said it better. I was thrilled because my work from college was already paying off and it was only my third course.

Making every effort we can, to put ourselves in another’s shoes, focus on everything, their thinking and the way they feel. “Your feelings onto others does not extend to people who are very different from you, even when the feelings otherwise overwhelm your judgments.” An example for the article on ProQuest, was if you were asked to rate the order of a man in the woods, cold, thirsty and hungry what do you feel he wishes he had the most. Some of them were given food, so they said something to drink. They used themselves in the story to choose what he would need most. Another example would be someone was given a 1,000 to buy anything they wanted, while you on the other hand who lived in a shelter only having one change of clothes was given that much money, you simply state, you would be the necessities. While the other man who was giving the money, although rich would have spent it frivolously. Perhaps he bought a Ferrari, just because he could. Often we don’t put ourselves in another person’s shoe enough. Just being an empathic listener you may have given someone just what they needed, a shoulder to cry on, a voice to be heard.

In a few short years I will receive masters in Psychology. Thinking about becoming and empathetic listener has only wanted me to achieve more. Thinking of my job title, duties of helping others and listening, I realize I need to master these skills. The more I can practice before then the better learned behavior I will obtain. Most of the time people just want to be heard, someone to ask, do you want to talk, or someone to just listen to them. “Empathic listening is proven to heal troubled minds.” Dr. Margot Sunderland. I want to help troubled youths, eighteen years and younger. “Empathic listening can enable the child to access their true feelings underneath life limiting defense mechanisms”. Emotions are sometimes hidden because they are afraid to let their true feelings out because of someone judging them.

Houghton Mifflin.(2009).Yahoo Education. In Reference. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from

Reginald Adkins. (2005-2012). Stepcase Lifehack. In 5 Tips for Empathetic Listening. Retrieved April 10, 2012, from for-empathetic-listening.html.

Empathy doesn’t extend to people with different political views. (2012, Apr 03). Asian News International, pp. n/a.

Jay Clarke. (June 21, 2011). American Thinker. In Barack Obama is a Bad Man. Retrieved April 13, 2012, from http://www,

Dr. Margot Sunderland. (February 12, 2011). In EMPATHIC LISTENING SKILLS FOR HEALING TROUBLED CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS with Dr Margot Sunderland. Retrieved April 22, 2012, from