Guidelines for Empathic Listening
Madelyn Burley-Allen offers these guidelines for empathic listening:
- Be attentive. Be interested. Be alert and not distracted. Create a positive atmosphere through nonverbal behavior.
- Be a sounding board — allow the speaker to bounce ideas and feelings off you while assuming a nonjudgmental, non-critical manner.
- Don’t ask a lot of questions. They can give the impression you are “grilling” the speaker.
- Act like a mirror — reflect back what you think the speaker is saying and feeling.
- Don’t discount the speaker’s feelings by using stock phrases like “It’s not that bad,” or “You’ll feel better tomorrow.”
- Don’t let the speaker “hook” you. This can happen if you get angry or upset, allow yourself to get involved in an argument, or pass judgment on the other person.
- Indicate you are listening by
- Providing brief, noncommittal acknowledging responses, e.g., “Uh-huh,” “I see.”
- Giving nonverbal acknowledgements, e.g., head nodding, facial expressions matching the speaker, open and relaxed body expression, eye contact.
- Invitations to say more, e.g., “Tell me about it,” “I’d like to hear about that.”
- Follow good listening “ground rules:”
- Don’t interrupt.
- Don’t change the subject or move in a new direction.
- Don’t rehearse in your own head.
- Don’t interrogate.
- Don’t teach.
- Don’t give advice.
- Do reflect back to the speaker what you understand and how you think the speaker feels.