Typically, we all listen with the intent to reply. We want to share our thoughts, expertise, advise, etc. However, if we share that information before we really understand what the person is saying we are not making a true connection. We people have a problem or concern and you listen with a pure desire to understand, it is amazing how quickly they open up to you. Sometimes they even solves their own problems!

Usually when we listen to someone speak we respond in one of four ways. We evaluate – we either agree or disagree; we probe – the equivalent of playing 20 questions; we advise – we give advise based on our own experiences; or we interpret – we just to figure people out. It is a natural way for almost all of us to listen, but it impedes our ability to truly understand someone. How can someone open up to us if they feel they are constantly being evaluated based on what they say for example?

There are four developmental stages to Emphatic Listening:

1. Mimic Content – basically just repeat back word for word what the other person has said. It can be insulting to the other person if it is not sincere, but at least you are listening

2. Rephrase the Content – slightly more effective, but you are just taking their words and rephrasing them. Again, at least you are listening.

3. Reflect Feeling – Now you are starting to listen to what is being said, and trying to understand the feeling behind it. Even if you are incorrect it shows that you are listening and concerned.

4. Rephrase the Content and Reflect the Feeling – The person knows you are listening, knows you are trying to understand their perspective, and this can lead to great communication.

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