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This brief YouTube clip previews what you'll read in this article. The
video notes eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site - I've
simplified that to seven:
This is one of a series of articles
in Lesson 2 - learn communication basics and seven powerful
to get more daily needs met more often.
Progress with this Lesson
depends on concurrent progress on Lesson 1 - free your
wise true Self to guide your personality in calm and conflictual
Start byranking yourself. On a scale of 1 (I'm
a poor listener) to 10 (I listen very well)...
important adults and kids, my recent listening skill is a ___.
and kids, my recent listening skill is a ___.
Innon-conflicts at work or school, my recent listening skill is a
In conflicts at work or school, my recent listening skill is a ___.
Recently, my ability to listen to my own
in stressful situations is a ___.
Listening vs. Hearing
As you know, it's possible to hear or read someone's words without
really understanding what they're thinking, feeling, and needing. Have
you ever had someone talk at you, but not with you?Feelingheard (understood) well enough means "I
you accurately receive what I
think, feel, and need right now, and...
respect both of us equally."
less than this is listening. Does
this help to explain why people frustrate each
other by saying
not listening to (hearing) me!" "Yes I AM!"
How many average adults and kids do you think
are aware of what you just read?
Many adults and all kids are unclear
on the difference between sympathy (intellectually understanding
what another person is experiencing) and
( understanding + feeling what another person feels and needs). Typical (non-empathic) listening usually
focuses passively on what the
Empathic listening is periodically
summarizing what you sense the other person thinks,
now without judgment. Listening empathically to
confirm clear understanding can be called a "hearing check."
"Hear With Your Heart" (thanks to Stephen Covey for this phrase)
Tailor these options to fit your style and the situation. If you're
undistracted and genuinely interested in your communication partner
Remind yourself that (a) respectful
you may give, and (b) it
does necessarily mean
"I agree with you!"
Temporarilyset your own opinions and needs aside, and
objectively on your
watch their face, eyes, body, and hands. Note postures, motions,
expressions, and gestures, or lack of these;
listen to their words and speech dynamics to guesstimate their main current
thoughts, feelings, and needs. Then
From time to time when the speaker
briefly(use a few words or a phrase, at most);
own words (avoid repeating theirs);
summarize the essence of what you believethey're
thinking, feeling emotionally and/or physically, and needing,...
without questions, comments, or solutions
(this is the
Use attentive posture; comfortable eye contact; and gestures, expressions,
and intensity that match the speaker's.
practice, when youre trulyfocused on
and empathic with your communication partners, these elements will happen
automatically, just as your fingers "know" how to tie a bow "by
If you're uncomfortable
(summarizing while your partner is still talking), picture a butter knife inserted in a
stream of water: if the blade is parallelto the flow (empathy), inserting it
doesn't disturb the flow (your partner's focus and thought stream).
needs, opinions, or thoughts is
interrupting, which is like turning the
knife-blade sideways in the water flow. Doing this usually signals you're
locally controlled by a
false self and your
awareness "bubble" excludes your partner,
effective communication is unlikely.
Some call this vital communication
listening, because it involves
concentration, awarenesses, and periodic commentingby the
listener, not just "sitting there nodding and grunting."
is also called reflective listening and
because the listener tries to return only the gist of the thoughts and
feelings they're getting - adding or subtracting nothing.
Does Empathic Listening SoundLike?
"So you think that..."
"What you need now is..."
"You're anxious about..."
"Seems you're unsure of..."
"Wow! Really confusing (to you) !"
"You're really feeling..."
frustrated enough to chew rocks..."
validation, not questions!"
"It seemed to you that..."
"...Pretty tough (for you),
mystifying..." (to you)..."
"You were furious
with me then!"
"Miraculous!" (you thought)
"So you felt you were up
"They totally missed your point!"
"Now you look
"You don't need to speak now..."
Note the absence
of questions and our favorite pronoun "I." "You're wondering
is probably a more effective empathic listening reflection than "I think you're
wondering about..." because it's briefer, and focuses on your partner -
not wonderful you.
You say "I've never heard of this skill before." I say "It's new to you."
You say "I doubt I can remember to use this with my Father." I say "You feel
you may be intimidated or distracted by him." (A statement, not a question).
You say "I'm really worried that Rosa's is experimenting with drugs." I say
"You distrust your child's judgment about using chemicals."
You say "I'm nervous and excited about my new job!" I say "You're feeling
several things at once."
You say "I have HAD it with my wife's interrupting me!" I say "You're
so frustrated, you've reached your limit."
You say "I never know what you're thinking." I say "You wish I was
Notice how brief "I" am, and that I'm trying to acknowledge the theme of
what you're saying without questioning, lecturing, defending, advising, or
refocusing on me.
Reflect on how you would nor3mally respond to each of these comments from
Why Use This Skill?
(vs. manipulative or dutiful) empathic listening is a win-win skill:eachperson
is more apt to get their current
communiction needs met. It benefits everyone!
Listening empathically signals your respectful, non-critical
interest in the speaker. S/He feels respected by you, so...
The speaker is more apt to keep talking, vs. defending,
blaming, shutting down, or withdrawing. This can build trust, intimacy, and relationships,
over time. And...
The speaker may be more willing to listen well to you...
Unlike saying "I hear you"
and "I understand,"
empathic listening demonstrates
whether you comprehend what the speaker thinks, feels, and needs. This...
Minimizes misunderstandings. At the same time,
May help the speaker clarify their ideas, emotions,
and needs, as they hear your periodic
Best of all,
patiently helping your partner lower their
E(motion) level "below their ears,"
you make win-winproblem-solving possible.
If you try to vent or problem-solve when your partner's E-level is "above
their ears," s/he probably can't hear you well or at all. Does this
match your experience?
When to Listen
it becomes a habit, consciously to use
You genuinely feel you and
your communication partner are equals in human worth and dignity.
The alternatives are feeling superior or inferior to them; and
You're genuinely(vs. dutifully, "sort of,"or
strategically)interested in your partner, and…
You're not too distracted to focus on them now;
and specially when
E(motion)-level is "above their
ears"- i.e. when s/he's very emotional about
really hear you for the moment.Noticing if your
and/or a partner's E-level is "above or below their ears" is
one focus of
When you don'tmeet these five conditions, try to
your Self (capital "S") to guide you, and patiently use all
seven communication skills to get your mutual
When people aren't aware of their option to
listen empathically and/or they are controlled by a well-meaning false self, they usually...
Play "Yes, but..."
Change the subject
Do two things at once
Recall a time you
needed to vent(be empathically heard), and got one or more of
these responses. How did that feel to you?
What did you do? All these responses can implyan insulting "I'm 1-up" attitude to the speaker: "My current needs are more important to me than
your and a partner's current
needs, it's easy to slip into
one of these ineffective responses -
specially if a false self
ways to respond effectively to someone who's not hearing you, see
this after you finish this article.
See how you feel about empathic listening now: T =
= false; and ? = "I'm not sure," or "It depends on
I can name and describe the seven
skills out loud now. (T F ?)
I can clearly describe to an average pre-teen: (a)
empathy, (b) empathic listening,
E-levels (d) how this skill differs from "regular
listening." (T F ?)
I can tell when someone's E-level is
"above their ears." (T F ?)
I'm clear nowon when
to listen empathically. (T F ?)
I can describe the key
benefits of using this skill. (T F ?)
I can describe the
difference between interrupting and
interjecting now. (T F ?)
I know which
alternatives to empathic listening I usually use. (T F ?)
I'm motivated to develop my
empathic-listening skill now (a) at home and (b) at work or school
(T F ?)
I'm usually comfortable(a) giving and (b) asking for
checks in key situations
(T F ?)
I understand that
listening empathically does not mean I agree with the speaker
(tho I may) (T F ?)
kidsin my life
know how, when, and why to use empathic listening (T F ?)
I accept the idea that normal
people's personalities (like mine) are composed of talented subselves.
(T F ?) If not, read this and try this safe, interesting exercise after you finish this article.
Note this interesting item from Yahoo online news, 8/7/05:
The Daily Mail, quoting findings published in
the specialist magazine NeuroImage, said
researchers at Sheffield university in northern
England discovered startling differences in the
way the brain responds to male and female
Men deciphered female voices using the auditory
part of the brain that processes music, while
male voices engaged a simpler mechanism, it
The Mail quoted researcher Michael Hunter as
saying, "The female voice is actually more
complex than the male voice, due to differences
in the size and shape of the vocal cords and
larynx between men and women, and also due to
women having greater natural 'melody' in their
"This causes a more complex range of sound
frequencies than in a male voice."
The findings may help explain why people
suffering hallucinations usually hear male
voices, the report added, as the brain may find
it much harder to conjure up a false female
voice accurately than a false male voice.
Have you ever noticed the gender of each of your inner voices (active
This is one of a series of Lesson-2 Web articles on how to communicate effectively. It outlines the powerful skill of empathic listening -
"hearing with your heart." The article proposes the benefits of
this skill, how to do it, requisites for using it, several examples, and when to use it.
Empathic listening is essential for effective assertion and problem
solving skills. It works with your personality subselves as well as with kids and adults.
It's easiest to use when your true Self is guiding your personality.
+ + +
with this two-person listening practice,
and/or keep studying and applying Lesson 2
communication basics and skills. Note -
practical guidebook Satisfactions - 7
relation skills you need to know (Xlibris.com, 2nd ed., 2010) integrates all
Web articles and worksheets.