I’ve come to the conclusion that many, if not most, of our ills both in business and society are caused by not listening. It’s not that we’re deaf nor that we’re often failing to pay attention. The issue is that as we “listen” we’re focusing on our own thoughts and how we’re going to respond or react rather than on what it is the speaker is saying. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to give fair consideration to the other speaker’s concerns.
When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm. Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.
In other words, you need to get out of your head and into theirs. You need to be quiet and listen. REALLY listen. Don’t fidget with your phone nor check your computer screen. Give them your undivided attention and don’t judge as they are speaking. It’s also something that is way better if you’re face to face with them so you can read their body language. You ought not to respond immediately to whatever they’re saying as you THEN form your thoughts. When you do, it’s often helpful to confirm that you’ve really heard them by playing back what they’ve said.
I can tell you from having tried to do this that many people are often quite rattled by it. Most of us aren’t used to having someone get out of their own heads and listen. I think you’ll be surprised how the nature of conversations change as they become true dialogs. Let me know, won’t you? I’m listening.