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Empathic Listening is for Everyone’s Good

Empathic Listening is for Everyone’s Good

One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People has got to be unpopular with the self-seeking, personal agenda of most of us these days. The habit is number five, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This principle is at the heart of empathic listening. Listening is essential to good communication that lets minds come together for the advancement of all.

The goal for those of us who want to get all we can out of life must include an interdependence with other people. If we think we are going to succeed at business, social life, or whatever without a meeting of minds with those around us, we are on a rough and lonely road. Not only that, when we have real communication going on, it is more likely that we can arrive at a win/win solution that makes everyone happy.

1. Realize our internal scripting. This is best done by getting to know ourselves through a bit of personality study. The four types originally identified by Hippocrates are a good place to start, but there are many other systems of personality theory. Seeking first to understand is complicated by our internal “scripting,” which is that personal perspective with which we approach everything.

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2. Be aware of the four wrong ways to respond and notice when we are doing them. They are probing, evaluating, advising, and interpreting. Probing is asking pointed questions to get the person to reveal more about what’s troubling them. Too often this is associated with one of the other self-centered response styles. For instance, we are just waiting for fuel for an interpretation or judgment we have already made.

3. Be careful about using mimicking techniques used by psychologists. It’s OK to repeat back what you hear someone say, but if you’re not with them emotionally, they will see right through you. A better method is to repeat back in your own words, with the emotional and physical facts included.

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4. Think win/win. When we feel we understand where the other person is coming from and what his or her needs are, we still have the job of making ourselves understood if we are to reach a point of agreement. Covey’s fourth habit is to “Think win/win.” Too often, we approach any sort of relationship communication problems from a competitive win/lose perspective. This attitude can display itself in one of two ways. We can have such a strong desire to win that we don’t care how we run over the other person. Or we can desire to avoid conflict so that we willingly lose.

5. Develop an abundance mentality. Win/win means both parties come out feeling like winners. This is a wonderful positive way to look at life which is closely related to our gut belief that there is enough to go around. Covey calls this the “Abundance Mentality” and contrasts it with a “Scarcity Mentality” which is far more common. Having an abundance mentality means we truly believe that we can win and they can win at the same time because there is plenty of whatever we both want (money, time, etc.) to meet everyone’s needs. A scarcity mentality means we have to fight it out because there won’t be enough for us both.

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Life is enriched by positive relationships with friends and business associates, but all too often we upset the peace because we don’t take the time to listen emphatically. We tend to put our own need to be understood first, but this often results in a breakdown in communication we later regret.

References:
Covey, Stephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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Littaur, Florence. Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself.

Kiersey, David and Bates, Marilyn. Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types

Barbara Wood is a writer and educator living with her family in the Missouri Ozarks.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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