Empathic listening (A complete guide)

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

In this blog post, we discuss empathic listening and other types of listening. We also give you advice on how to practice empathic listening in order to improve your relationship with others.

What is empathic listening?

Empathic listening is the saviour of communication, and thus of the quality of interpersonal relationships. Relationships between people are very complex and we cannot talk about a single solution for their improvement or repair. But empathic listening is essential in cultivating quality relationships. It creates human connection, closeness, appreciation and affection. 

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

When I listen to someone empathetically, then they feel respected. I gradually gain his trust and I can even influence him, and in this way, from the position of the listener, I have the opportunity to change the course of the discussion and take it to an area where each of us feels good. 

Moreover, from such an experience, each of the participants in the discussion has something to gain and to learn. If I get into the position of influencing someone, I could use this in a negative way, I could manipulate them, but that risks not building, but destroying our relationship.

The deeper the listening, the more accurate the data. Instead of designing our own biography, through which to interpret a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, we deal with his or her inner reality, mind, and soul. We listen because we want to understand. We want to receive messages from the intimacy of a human soul.

Empathic listening is the key to gaining a person’s trust, provided that he does not perceive it in this way, but as a sincere concern to understand his needs on a deep level. If your efforts are perceived by the person you are listening to as manipulative and self-interested, the effect is the other way around: you lose confidence.

How we normally listen

After listening to someone speak, we usually have one of the following 4 autobiographical answers, which we give spontaneously and naturally:

We evaluate: we agree or disagree;

We examine: we ask questions from our subjective perspective;

We advise: we give advice based on our own experience;

We interpret: we seek to represent our people, to explain their motives, their behaviour, based on our own motivations and behaviours.

These answers affect the relationship between me and my interlocutor. How could he/she open up to me when I judge and examine him/her before he/she can explain something? 

Examining means asking dozens of questions. It is an inquisitive, sometimes invasive, autobiographical “autobiographical” conduct. It can also be logical – but logical language is different from that of feelings and emotions. You can ask dozens of questions a day and not find out what is really important in the other person’s life if you do not know how to ask the questions that matter. 

The questions that parents constantly harass their children with are one of the reasons that keep them away from them. We are so overwhelmed by this kind of response that we do it in a completely unconscious way.

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

How can we practice empathic listening?

Through exercise. Some are shocked when asked to practise empathic listening. As one learns to control their usual way of responding, and to listen with empathy, he/she may notice spectacular results in the quality of communication.

To listen empathetically to another person, to listen to and truly understand what he is saying, we need to change our perspective on how we look at things. We need to move the magnifying glass from our lives to the receivers. 

We must stop filtering our own paradigm and stop reading our autobiographies in the lives of others (“I know how you feel! I’ve been through the same ordeal. I know the situation. Let me tell you how it was”). The details of the life of the man I am talking to are different from those of my life.

 If I really want to understand him and have a conversation at a higher level and a deep connection with him, I have to see things from his perspective. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with him, but only understanding his speech, mood, motivations, arguments, attitude or actions.

If I can truly understand him, even if I don’t agree with him, even if I would never choose to live like him, at least I will be able to treat him with more respect and not treat him. / I judge it the same as if I had only looked through my lenses and analyzed accordingly.

When we listen empathetically, we are also exposed to risks: those of being influenced and becoming vulnerable. In order to exert an influence on someone, I have to let myself be influenced. I need inner stability to face the vulnerability to which I am exposed. But that means listening with deep participation and truly understanding.

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

Other types of listening

Besides empathic listening, which is our main theme for this article, there are other 13 different types of listening.

Discriminative listening – This is the most rudimentary form of listening that we humans are capable of. Discriminative listening is about the vibrations and sounds of the interlocutor’s voice. This type of listening is very important because it communicates the message behind the words. Basically, discriminatory listening helps us to capture emotions from the other person’s voice.

Informational listening – A type of listening to that requires immense concentration. This form of listening is about the ability to receive the information the speaker wants to convey. Informational listening is about learning what you hear.

Comprehensive Listening – A type of listening that we practice almost daily. For example, when you are attending a lecture or you are having a conversation with your friend, you practice comprehensive listening. The purpose of this type of listening is to understand best the message of our interlocutor. 

Evaluative listening – It occurs when the interlocutor tries to convince us by influencing our attitudes, beliefs or ideas. We listen and evaluate the received message so that we can make the appropriate decisions regarding the received message. Evaluative listening is also called critical listening.

Selective listening – A negative way of listening to someone. This type of listening can often cause conflicts or misunderstandings between people. Selective listening involves filtering the speaker’s message and selecting from what he or she says, a part that affects you or that interests you most.

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

Rapport listening  – Oftentimes practised by sellers. Their interest is to make you feel important, understood and valuable. Therefore, people who practice listening will do everything they can to please the interlocutor.

Appreciative listening  – Not about communicating with others, but rather about the relationship with ourselves and what we need to do to nourish the mind. Therefore, appreciative listening is practised when listening to our favourite music, a recorded meditation or a recited speech.

Pseudo or False listening – We all practised pseudo listening at least once in our lives. We all found ourselves thinking about anything other than what the speaker in front of us was talking about. Pseudo listening is about pretending to be listening when you actually think of something else.

Deep listening – It means being fully present and ready to listen to the other person. This form of listening involves empathy, understanding, unconditional respect for the other person.

High integrity listening – It implies that you know how to listen with integrity.

Integrity is the kind of virtue that encompasses a series of moral traits of a person, such as honesty, respect for oneself and others. 

Judgmental listening – It is practised by those who, in communicating with others, spend most of their time analyzing and evaluating what the other person is saying. These people do not shy away from expressing their opinion even if it comes in contention with everything the speaker has said. 

Sympathetic listening – It is somehow resembling empathetic listening.

This type of communication requires special attention to the emotions of the interlocutor. Sympathetic listening allows you to express your emotions about what you hear. 

Relationship listening – It is about the connection that is formed between people when they communicate. The stronger this connection is, the easier the two people can understand each other.

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

Conclusions

In this blog post, we discussed empathic listening and other types of listening. We also gave you advice on how to practice empathic listening in order to improve your relationship with others.

FAQ about empathic listening

What is empathetic listening?

Empathetic listening is a type of listening that prioritizes the mental state, emotions and feelings of the speaker. As an example, you can practice empathic listening when someone gives you advice or asks you for a sensitive issue or topic.

What is empathic active listening?

Empathic active listening is essential in cultivating quality relationships. It creates human connection, closeness, appreciation and affection. Is a type of listening that makes the other feel heard, appreciated and valued. 

Why is empathic listening important?

Emphatic listening is important because it creates a deeper connection. If I really want to understand others and have a conversation at a higher level and a deep connection with someone, I have to see things from their perspective. This does not necessarily mean agreeing with them, but only understanding their speech, mood, motivations, arguments, attitude or actions.

How do you develop empathic listening?

To develop empathic listening, to listen to and truly understand what he is saying, we need to change our perspective on how we look at things. We need to move the magnifying glass from our lives to the receivers. We must stop filtering our own paradigm and stop reading our autobiographies in the lives of others.

What makes a good listener?

A good listener is attentive to his caller. Listen with empathy, understanding, and open-minded ears and ask important questions. A good listener knows that not everything is solved, as if by magic, just by having a conversation. Instead, it takes time and openness.

Further reading

Active Listening, by Carl R. Rogers

Active Listening: Improve Your Conversation Skills, Learn Effective Communication Techniques: Achieve Successful Relationships: With 6 Essential Guidelines, by Joseph Sorensen 

The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction, by Rebecca Z. Shafir MA CCC

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry

References

Active Listening, by Carl R. Rogers

Active Listening: Improve Your Conversation Skills, Learn Effective Communication Techniques: Achieve Successful Relationships: With 6 Essential Guidelines, by Joseph Sorensen 

Healthline.com

Indeed.com

Empathic listening (A complete guide)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.