Before we learn how to use the tools of empathic communication, let’s explore what empathy is. Empathy is the ability to provide understanding through active listening. This simplified definition of empathy can be described as someone having the communication tools to listen to another, while attempting to fully understand the needs and feelings of the person – without reflecting or mirroring their emotions.
Empathy is the root of healthy, clear, and fluid communication between romantic partners, family members, co-workers and even customers and/or clients. Empathy enriches the emotional intimacy and bonding within all aspects of our relationships. As you can see, empathy is an important and essential communication skill, aiding in conflict resolution, and even conflict prevention.
The tools to use empathy are simple, yet, these tools take practice and conscious intent to defeat our instinctual responses that further irritate tensions or conflicts. The two main tools of empathy are active listening and understanding the person’s emotions and needs.
First, with active listening, it is imperative to truly listen to the other person without trying to form a response or advice simultaneously.
Barriers to active listening are:
1. Interrupting the person that is sharing.
2. Providing a response to their expression from our own understanding and not the other persons.
3. Hearing their words, but refusing to hear the underlying needs behind their statements.
The tools that help us use active listening are:
1. Staying quiet and intently listening to what the other person is feeling, not just what they’re saying.
2. Commit to hearing the other person out fully, before attempting to be heard.
3. Repeat back to the other person what you heard them say for full clarity.
Once the person sharing feels heard through active listening, a feeling of relief, connection usually follows. The goal of using empathy is to help the other person feel not only heard, but also understood.
Barriers to empathic understanding are:
1. Attempting to be understood, before you’ve attempted to understand the other person.
2. Refusing to step out of your own perspective and into the other person’s.
3. Diminishing, invalidating or judging what the other person is feeling and experiencing.
The tools that help us use and portray understanding are:
Understanding the other person fully, by repeating back to them what they’ve said, and clarifying their unmet needs.
Stepping into the other person’s shoes to understand how and why they could be feeling what they are feeling.
Validating and honoring the other person’s feelings and experiences by saying things like “That must be really difficult.” “It sounds like you are really sad about that.”
Coming to a logical, not emotionally based, agreement based on the content of the conflict.
The tools for active listening and understanding are numerous, but we hope you found this introduction to empathy useful and encourage you to use it in your daily lives.
Again, these tools may be simple, but in application, can prove challenging. If we want to master empathy, it is important we continuously learn empathy and all the different approaches and tools.
In closing, we hope you commit to using empathy in your everyday conversations. We believe you will see stronger connections, receive more love and understanding in your own life, and even realize more difficult conversations become easier and easier. With empathy, watch authentic bonds grow between you and others, and let the love flow as we connect with our fellow human beings!
Spread the Shine- Be a LIGHT!
From our Hearts,
Your Starz Team