Empathetic listening (2/2)
text / Chi graphics / Humchuk Editor / Ruby, Sandy
3 key points to empathetic listening
Empathetic listening depends on the following 3 dimensions. The key is about the state of your body and mind, rather than the technique.
Presence means we are aware of what is happening at present; we are not lost in our thoughts or emotions. The “I connect” exercise introduced in the previous entry helps us come back to presence.
Intention refers to our willingness to unconditionally accept and be with the other person, regardless of what they have experienced. Through listening and conversing, we connect them to their emotions and needs. The focus here is to listen, to help the other person connect to him/herself, not trying to save him/her.
We put all our attention to the other person. The focus of our listening and understanding are all on the other person’s feelings and needs.
Step 1: Prepare yourself, create space to hold others’ emotions
Note: We suggest practices start from yourself and people you know who do not have strong emotional intensity. Only if you have enough confidence and experience, we do not recommend approaching companions who underwent traumatic experiences.
- Before we listen, start with the “I connect” exercise. Keeping our heart and mind open and tender, staying presence, we are preparing ourselves to bear our companions' emotions.
- As we listen, invite the following intentions: openness, acceptance, curiosity, compassion. We try to listen and understand the heart and thoughts of our companions.
- Listen quietly: bring our full attention to listen to the other person.
Step 2: Invite others to self-discovery
In this step, the key is to be:
4. A space for emotions: In this space, we invite companions to slow down in order for them to fully register their body, mind, feelings, and emotions.
5. Be concise: As we rephrase what the other person said, be concise. Try to use questions to invite the other person to validate their thoughts.
e.g. "Kim, you said your father and you left the protest early on October 1st, is that right?"
6. Identify important thoughts: try to identify which thought, belief, expectation is important to the other person. Verify them by asking questions.
e.g. “You decided to leave the protest early. That makes you sad, isn’t it?”
We act like a mirror to help others recognize their emotions, feelings, needs and thoughts.
Step 3: Registering emotions and needs
In the last step, ask questions from your observation. Invite the other person to clarify or validate their emotions.
7. Be empathetic to feelings and emotions: try to make a guess on how the other person feels; verify them by using questions.
e.g. “You feel upset and guilty because of leaving early. Is that right?”
8. Be empathetic to needs and values: Try to make a guess on their needs behind their emotions. You can ask questions to see if you are right.
e.g. “You feel upset and guilty. Is it because you want to stand with companions in the frontline, to support and protect them?”
9. Be presence to their needs: Once companions recognize their needs, invite them to let go of thoughts and judgements. Being presence with their feelings helps them revisit their own unique needs and values, connecting them back to their innermost needs. Healing will naturally take place when companions are connected to their innermost needs. When we have to do is to create space and time for that connection to take place.
e.g. when companion is connected to his/her innermost needs, such as support and protection, we invite him/her to:
“I invite you to slow down and let go of thoughts, judgements, and internal storylines. Put your focus on your needs: support and protection. Tell yourself, ‘I want to support and protect companions. Let yourself immerse in this thought and recognize your own innermost needs.”