what we're reading now
follow us on facebook
follow us on twitter
subscribe to our blog
find it

What We're Reading Now

Improving Your Empathic Listening

24 May 2016

Janie read Three Ways Leaders Can Listen with More Empathy, and was excited to have some concrete suggestions on ways to improve her listening skills.

Tags: communication, empathy, janie read, listening

At Allison Partners, we spend a lot of time talking with clients about listening. In many of their communication courses, Allison and Rachel remind people that listening is one of those things that most managers know is important but often don’t practice well. Given that, I was interested when I saw Christine Riordan’s article, Three Ways Leaders Can Listen with More Empathy, on the HBR blogs.

Riordan notes how common it is for leaders to take command, direct conversations, or worry about what they might say next rather than really listening to what the other person is saying. As Riordan writes, “Research also shows that active listening, combined with empathy or trying to understand others’ point of view, is the most effective kind of listening.”

Riordan explains a few of the behaviors that research has linked to this kind of empathic listening. First, empathic listeners pay attention to more than simply the words being said and draw information and clues about people’s feelings using all their senses. Next, these listeners are deliberate about how they summarize and take information from the conversation. Finally, empathic listeners respond in ways that help others feel heard and stay fully engaged in the conversation.

All of this sounds good, but it can be hard to do in the midst of an actual conversation. Riordan provides some helpful phrases that leaders can use when strengthening their listening skills. For example, Riordan suggests that a leader can say, “You seem excited (happy, upset…) about this situation, and I would like to hear more about your perspective.” Allison gives a wonderful example of true empathic listening in this blog post. I think it can be really difficult to listen to another person share their feelings and not offer advice, but this is one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone else.

While empathic listening is key, it is also critically important that follow up occurs after the conversation. This will help assure others that true listening did occur, and that the conversation had purpose. Follow up can take many forms; the important thing is making sure that it happens. I have personally had the experience where I thought someone was really listening to me, but they proved otherwise by not following up on something we discussed.

If you’re interested in learning more about empathic listening, I encourage you to read Riordan’s article. It is a quick read, and includes many other valuable tips about ways to slow down and really listen to others.


Our Comment Policy:

Our blog posts are only half of the conversation. What our readers have to say is equally important to us, and we're grateful for all the comments that continue the dialog.

To ensure that the discussion here is as useful as possible to all of our readers, please be respectful of our contributors and refrain from harassing, threatening and/or vulgar language. We reserve the right to screen and remove any comments from the site. If you have a question about a comment or want to discuss our policy, please contact us. We'll talk it over.

There are no comments for this entry yet.


Leave a comment



Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter the characters you see below:

« Return to What We're Reading Now