Comments: Empathic Listening: Listening First Aid

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Allison    ajfink@frii.com     10/27/05
I thought the article covered a lot of ground in a concise manner and I enjoyed the examples even without the advantage of inflection and body language. Has anyone done work on empathic listening for the empathic listener? I had a very weird experience this year where I was certainly in crisis – sitting on the curb outside a restaurant crying for about forty-five minutes, talking in contrary circles and/or not making a whole lot of sense, etc. A very good friend was with me and she was using all the active / empathetic listening techniques. The whole time about half my brain was busy analyzing her approach. I was thinking, “hey, that really worked to get me talking” or “wow, I wonder if that technique is that annoying when I use it on other people” etc. I was distracted from analyzing/handling my crisis by watching her listen! I have noticed this in other professional areas as well, such as people that work in hospice and then lose a loved one themselves. There is a certain level of cliché when styles and techniques we recognize are turned back at us that is distracting despite the genuine level of intent and caring from the person we are venting to. Anyhow, it was a strange experience for me and I was just wondering if anyone has written on it?

David Bogan, Auckland NZ AK   10/26/05
Empathic Listening
Hello Gregorio, Thank you for your very informative article. I would like to add three points that reflect the importance of what you are saying. 1/ The Australian NSW Farm Debt Mediation Act of 1994 (A very enlightened piece of legislation) listed "Listening" as the prime function of the mediator 2/ Lifeline Auckland has its byline "Listening is the least we can do." 3/ I have referred several potential mediators to Lifeline to learn the art of emphatic listening and also to learn that without 'validating' a person's perception, nothing happens, because without valdation their intuition and emotional intelligence where their decisions ultimately lie, won't engage. Thank you again David

David Bogan, Auckland NZ AK   10/26/05
Empathic Listening
Hello Gregorio, Thank you for your very informative article. I would like to add three points that reflect the importance of what you are saying. 1/ The Australian NSW Farm Debt Mediation Act of 1994 (A very enlightened piece of legislation) listed "Listening" as the prime function of the mediator 2/ Lifeline Auckland has its byline "Listening is the least we can do." 3/ I have referred several potential mediators to Lifeline to learn the art of emphatic listening and also to learn that without 'validating' a person's perception, nothing happens, because without valdation their intuition and emotional intelligence where their decisions ultimately lie, won't engage. Thank you again David

David McCain  drmccain@cox.net     10/26/05
Words of laud & and another resource
Hey, Thanks for the article (I found it a bit longer than I could consume in one siting -- I hope to read it all at some point). I applaud the author for discussing empathy directly. Empathy is nothing less than showing love (or as Rogers would say: Unconditional Positive Regard) to others AND to ourselves. I am concerned about using empathy as a "tool" to get someone to talk or "open up". In my experience, when we have motives other than just "connecting and understanding" underneath our empathy (i.e. "I want her to say more" or "I want her to explore her situation more deeply" or "I want him to change his mind"), the speaker will sense this agenda and the empathic connection will be broken. Staying out of our own "stuff" in the moment is the greater part of going into another's. I practice and teach Nonviolent Communication (NVC) which gives one model for creating an empathic connecting with others AND ourselves. I emphasize the "ourselves" part because I believe our attempts to "give" empathy to another is greatly aided by having a strong connection with our own feelings. My addition to the author's references is a new book by the creator of Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg. It is entitled _Speak Peace in a World of Conflict_ available at Amazon for $10.85 (this is a steal!). This gives an accessible model to help develop the skill of empathic listening. There is even a chapter on mediation :) Being in empathy requires a stillness of the heart -- Remember, don't just do something, sit there! Dave