Teaching Empathy: Empathetic Listening

Find a person who is a good listener, and he or she will likely have many friends— people want to be around a good listener. To teach your students to be better listeners, they must learn to take time for others. In a world of change and pressure, it takes a real effort to take time to listen to others. Listening is an activity used daily by all people and is important to the success of every person.

Good listening can improve the success of your students and classroom in the following ways:

  •         Help solve problems
  •         Set good examples for communication
  •         Build trust and win respect
  •         Improve work
  •         Build better relationships
  •         Reduce mistakes
  •         Save time

An improvement to listening is empathetic listening. Empathetic listening is a type of listening that goes further than ordinary listening. This type of listening uses another person’s point of view to see the world from that viewpoint. It provides a higher level of understanding of how others feel.

Here are five tips to teach to your students for empathetic listening:

  1. Develop good listening habits
  2. Listen to understand
  3. Practice the four stages of empathetic listening
  4. Avoid misunderstandings
  5. Follow the rules of empathetic listening

good listening

Develop good listening habits

To help your students become empathetic listeners, they first must develop habits of good listening.  Listening is such a common activity that we sometimes forget how important it is. Start by teaching these simple, good listening habits to your students:

  1. Let the person speak without interrupting or breaking in
  2. Don’t say, “I know how you feel”
  3. Show your interest in what’s being said
  4. Try to understand what the person is saying
  5. Try not to think about what you’re going to say while the person is still talking
  6. Don’t judge what the person is saying
  7. Keep an open mind

Listen to understand

Most of us do not listen to understand, we listen only enough to reply with our own thoughts and opinions. While the person is talking, we are thinking about what we are going to say next. This is dangerous because it causes us to respond based on our own thoughts and feelings. Teach your students to  pay attention to the thoughts and feelings of the person speaking. Empathetic listening requires understanding the problem from the speaker’s point of view.

Practice the four stages of empathetic listening

Teach your students to practice the four stages of empathetic listening:

Stage 1: Copy what is being said. Simply repeat what you hear in order to get further understanding. Repeat it exactly as you think you heard it.

Stage 2: Say what you hear. Repeat the words that were said without adding anything new.

Stage 3: Reflect on the feeling. Try to understand the feeling expressed in what was said, going beyond what you think you heard.

Stage 4: Restate what was said and think about the feeling. This combines stages 2 and 3 in order to understand the message.

Avoid Misunderstandings

While empathetic listening takes time and work, it does not take nearly as much time and effort as it does to correct a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding happens when a person fails to understand correctly the meaning or intent of another person’s words or actions. Or, more simply put, the message meant to be sent is different from the message received.

The trouble with a misunderstanding is that you can’t begin to correct it until you realize that there has been a misunderstanding. Empathetic listening can help prevent or keep misunderstandings from happening. Teach your students that the better they listen to others, the less misunderstandings will occur.

Follow the rules of empathetic listening

One of the most important jobs of a friend is to be a good listener. Most people are more interested in talking than they are in listening. Instead of really listening to what the other person is saying, they just wait for their turn to speak.

Luckily, listening is a learned skill. You can teach your students the skills of good listening to help them be empathetic listeners. Think of what a difference empathetic listening will have on your students’ success!

Thanks for tuning into our series on teaching empathy to your students. If you want to learn more about developing or teaching soft skills, sign up for a free soft skills webinar here.

By |2018-07-01T21:09:21+00:00July 1st, 2018|Emotional Intelligence, Life Skills, Soft Skills|0 Comments

About the Author:

Art Janowiak III is the VP of Sales and Marketing at The Conover Company. He graduated from St. Norbert College and is a sales expert. He has experience speaking, training and putting together online courses for emotional intelligence and career assessments. He currently lives in Appleton, WI with his wife and two daughters.

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