Empathy is the action of understanding and being sensitive to the feelings, thoughts, motives and experience of another person. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ empathy) Empathetic listening, also known as active listening is a method of listening that involves understanding both the content of a message as well as the intent of the sender and the circumstances under which the message is given. (http://www.toolingu.com/definition-950155-54511-empathetic-listening.html)
To be able to effectively listen empathetically, you must be able to give the person speaking with your full attention, no multi-tasking. Do not judge the person speaking, try to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they are feeling. Make sure to pay close attention to the emotions behind the words of the speaker. Are they angry, afraid, frustrated or resentful? Respond to the emotion as well as the words. Do not talk. You must realize that you do not need an immediate reply. If you let the silence happen, the person speaking often will break the silence and offer a solution. Make sure that the person speaking knows that you are listening and trying to make sure that you understand them by asking questions to clarify what they are saying. It also helps to restate what you think the person is saying. (http://www.lifehack.org/articles/ lifehack/5-tips-for-empathetic-listening.html)
If you are new to active listening, I would suggest putting all pens and paper away. This will ensure that you are not tempted to take notes or jot down questions. Another good idea is to send your phone to voicemail so that the ringing telephone is not interrupting the person speaking. Lastly, turn off your computer so there is no temptation there to get on it. It is also important to make sure that the person speaking is comfortable. I would suggest a comfortable chair and non-fluorescent lighting. This will help to relax the person speaking so they are not as on edge as they might...
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