What is Empathy?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” — Stephen Covey
We all heard Steven Covey’s quote about the 5th habit:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
One of the best definitions about „Empathetic Listening“ is of Covey himself:
It’s not about listen until you understood everything.
It’s about listen until the other person feels understood.
In the context of this site it is the ability and willingness to understand
- character traitsof another person
And beyond. Because it’s also important to show that you understand the other person’s situation and you can put yourself in their shoes.
At least 5 things you should consider for a better listening experience and therefore a much better talk:
Pay attention to these 5 points when being in a conversation:
- Direct your whole focus to the other person and remove every distraction possible. No phone, email or others.
- Communicate with your voice and or your body that you are listening.
Let your conversation partner know that you are listening.
Pay attention to your bodylanguage and your posture.
- Repeat in your own words what is being said.
- Create space for absolute silence.
- Give constructive feedback and encourage the other person to tell more.
Can everyone of us learn this: Empathetic Listening?
Sure everyone can attain and already has a certain level of empathy.
They are very different between different humans.
There are different levels.
I don’t even try to listen.
I seem to be interested but I am not. I am thinking about something else.
- Selective Listening:
I just listen if there is an interesting part.
This is very comparable like we listen to small children.
- Really paying attention:
I really hear the words. And the meaning that may have.
- Basic Empathetic Listening: I
I really listen with the intent to be understood. I am open. Focused. I get the hang of what is being said and am not blind about getting a feeling of the other persons value system and the believes. And what might going on in this person.
Therefore I got a much deeper understanding during and about the communication.
- I consider everything being said in 5) and come from that mindset. Including the 5 requests I described above at the very beginning.
And I indicate that I have a feeling for the persons momentarily situation as well.
This is listening not only with your mind or brain, also with your ears, eyes and your heart.
And there is at least one further level I can establish. And I will explain this in another article. Sometimes you could do everything right for creating a deep connection, but without empathy you’re on the road to failing.
I remember a young woman running around confused in front of a club. She was obviously very excited and angry.
Now I just could have said:
or whatever I might have first said to say hi.
And then just get into a fullblown conversation.
Since she is so excited I noticed that she didn’t perceive my first words.
Well instead I say:
„Hi, you okay?“
She shakes her head and I see she’s got quite a wound at her chin.
A little blood is dripping off of it.
I decide to take care first.
I am searching for some tissues. When I found one I’d like the wipe the blood off,
but before I touch her I say:
„Wait, let me get that off. I am careful, ok? Because I am sure it could hurt a little.“
Does this have to do with a deep connection like I am explaining here on this site? No, not now.
But about empathy for her situation. Because she doesn’t feel good.
When is empathy important?
Before I build a deep connection?
After I built a connection?
Or during the talk?
Before, during AND after. Empathy is always important. You should gain such a deep understanding
so you don’t even have to think about it anymore.
If we establish that people will communicate open and honestly.
What can I do to become more empathetic?
What effects does it have?
- It builds trust and respect.
- It enables the conversational partners to communicate emotionally.
It can help to release emotions.
- It reduces tension.
- It gets more profound informations to surface.
- It’s collaborative not competitive. So a feeling of togetherness grows.
How do I learn Empathy?
Generally it means to establish a razor sharp perception of the other person, if you’d like to be empathetic.
It should be like you’re the other person.
You feel what the other person feels.
You see what the other person is seeing.
You hear what the other person is hearing.
With your eyes, ears, heart and your mind. And much feelings and empathy for the situation, the values und the believes of the other person.
Yes, the impact of empathy reaches out far beyond a deep connection.
And no, I won’t tell you here about how many percent of importance has bodylanguage, tonality and so on, there are enough examples online.
Wikipedia defines empathy likes this:
Empathy refers to the ability and willingness thought to recognize and understand emotions, motives and personality traits of another person.
Empathy also includes the response to the feelings of others, such as compassion, sadness, pain or auxiliary pulse  basis of empathy is the self-perception; the more open you are for his own emotions, the better you can the derive the feelings of the other person.  empathy plays a role in many sciences and applications a fundamental role of criminology  on the political science, psychotherapy, psychology, physiology, physiotherapy, education, philosophy, linguistics, medicine and psychiatry to the management or marketing.
Well, how do I get there?
- Start practicing listening. Listening doesn’t mean – like described above – just wait for every opportunity to blurt out your thoughts.
But paraphrase. It means repeat with your own words what your conversation partner tells you about.
First to make it easier you can also you the words of the person you’re talking to.
- Later you can try to recognize and derive the feeling of the other person. As well as what he/she might feel about what you just told.
Sometimes include a little summary about what was being said.
- Also include the feelings you believe to perceive.
This creates space for your conversation partner to communicate as exactly as possible.
THAT is one of the most important things in relationships.
What we will often do is judging the words of the other person. That’s NOT about the topic of Empathy. Leave it out, ok? Hold up, if you’re just about to judge the other person.
- We all have included this preprogrammed answers in us, buried so deeply we’re not even conscious about them.
- And mostly we have only developed the abiliy to understand what is being said a little.
- Often we give the other person an advice based on our own experiences.
- Most of the time we stay in our reality. We put questions based on us. Not based on the other person.
- And we try to derive their motives and behavior based on our motives and our behavior. Und wir versuchen ihre Motive und ihr Verhalten basierend auf unserem Verhalten und unseren Motiven abzuleiten.
We all feel the hunger to blurt out our own thoughts in a talk like people in other countries might miss food. But only because so many do it, it definitely hasn’t to be right.
The logical language differs very much from the emotional language. And because also our perceptions are different we need feedback from the others around us.
Time we invest about being empathetic multiplies in any kind of relationship we might experience. Always.
Here a video with a very good explanation about what empathy is as well:
We’re allowed to ask, so just ask, if you want to make sure you understand correctly. If we want to learn it, we have to ask, right?
Just try to apply this knowledge and if you still got some question, just shoot me a text or write your questions and insights in the comment field below.