Feeling Empathy for Another
Edward K. Lee
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In my essay, I will go over the definition of empathy, and how to be a good empathetic listener. I will explain the process that I have learned and implemented with the two test subject’s that I have interviewed. I will go over the challenges of empathetic listening, the effects that it has on a conversation, and the importance of empathetic listening; so we can efficiently improve our interpersonal skills. I will conclude with how I benefited from empathetic listening, and how it changed the way, as to how I should listen to other people.
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Feeling Empathy for Another
According to the Merriam dictionary, “Empathy” is defined as: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.
A good way to hold perspective for another is to “experience empathy” for them (Alberts, Ayers, Busha, and Holtz, 2009, p. 80). When we empathize with others, we try to understand another’s “feelings, and share their experience emotionally and physically” (Alberts et al., 2009, p. 80). And by experiencing another’s “emotions and behaviors,” this will help us understand the “situation” that they are in (Alberts et al., 2009, p. 80). The process of being a good empathetic listener requires us to develop our skills in “imagination, open-mindedness, and commitment” (Alberts et al., 2009, p. 80).
According to Bryant (2009), you will also be a good listener if you seem: to be present, to be interested, to have the time, and to show respect when you are listening to your subject (pp. 49-52). There are some steps that Bryant (2009) points out to be a good “active listener” (pp. 49-52). To be a good active listener we have to look for signs in their language, bodily gestures, and the tone level in their voice. First we must “create the right environment” for the person that we are about to listen to. After we have the right atmosphere, we can initiate our good listening skills by: giving our full “attention, create a sense of understanding (may use
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empathetic phrases such as ‘that must have been difficult’), summarize and reflect, establishing a shared understanding (Bryant, 2009, pp.49-52).
The most difficult part of this exercise was finding the time, and a quiet place to talk my subjects without any disruptions (everyone on this farm is looking for me, especially my son). After we have found a good spot to talk, I got some pen and paper to take notes. I got my subject to sit comfortably, trying to create a relaxing atmosphere. It took some time to find a topic to converse about, something that was emotional for him. After a few, very long minutes, he wanted to talk about his sister.
I tried to listen intently on how he ended up here because of his sister (my subject is court ordered to stay here until the end of March). I have heard his story before (a couple times), never listening with much thought. This time it was different, I intently listened to everything he had to say, and I was intrigued by the story that he was telling me. I was trying my best to listen carefully, without fidgeting, just concentrating on him. Everything was going well, I was asking him questions to draw out more information. My subject opened up fully about his problems and the resentment towards his sister, I was very pleased that he was comfortable with opening up to me.
My next subject and I talked about the chores and the work we do on the farm here in Phelan, California. At first it was difficult for him to talk about, how he felt about the staff, and the work...