What is Empathic Listening?

I have been blessed to have been chosen to participate in my local area hospice training to become a hospice client volunteer. And during my Basic Palliative and Bereavement Support Training course, I was taught empathetic listening skills. By far this is one of the most useful skills I have learned in my life regarding how to communicate effectively and I would like to share some of what I had learned with you.

When a good friend of yours wants to confine in you, more often than not, most of us have a tendency to create communication roadblocks. We are unaware that despite our wanting to help someone, our “help” might actually backfire and cause the other person to feel insignificant, weak, not being smart enough to figure things out or even get angry at our response. Below are 5 common communication roadblocks.

1. Order or commanding: “You must…”, “You have to…”. These types of responses can produce fear or promote rebellious behaviour. Example: “You have to tell your wife that you are sick!”

2. Preaching: “You should…”, “It is your responsibility….”. This can create guilt feelings in the person who has confined in you or they can feel obligated to do what you tell them to do. Example: “You should stay strong for your family.”

3. Judging or criticizing: “You are doing it wrong”, “What were you thinking?” This implies the other person is incompetent or stupid or have poor judgement. It can literally cut off communication with the other person over fear of negative judgement. Example: “You would have time if you weren’t too busy playing video games all day.”

4. Reassuring or sympathizing: “Dont worry”, “You’ll feel better”. These kind of statements can cause a person to feel misunderstood and perhaps evoke a strong feeling of hostility from the person. Example: ” Don’t worry you will get over it in a couple of days.”

5. Analyzing or assessing: “What’s wrong with you is…”, ” You don’t really mean that…” The other person can feel threatened and frustrated and could stop the person from communication for fear of judgement. Example: “What’s wrong with you is that you are always thinking of yourself first and that is why he left you.”

Basically it comes down to: the best way to respond to the other person is to be empathetic to their situation. Be present and avoid using any communication roadblockstatements. If you really must say something to the other person, simply repeat in your own words what the other person just conveyed to you and confirm how they feel about their situation. And remember 75% of all communication is non-verbal which means also make sure you are sitting attentively facing the person and be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying to you. You will find that when you use this technique people will open up more to you and in a lot of cases be able to find their own answers and solutions to their problems simply by being able to openly talk about them.

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Peace Out,


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