Empathic Listening: 4 Ways to Really Hear Your Partner

by | Jun 29, 2013 | Empathic Listening

Have you ever just wanted your partner to just listen and not offer solutions?

Or maybe you have struggled to empathize with your partner because you see an easy fix they won’t even consider?

Empathic listening, while so crucial in healthy relationships, is often the hardest thing to give. Especially if you the situation differently or have your own agenda.

This video is an awesome example:

The point is that empathy can feel as important–if not more–than physical safety. That’s because on a biological level, attunement=survival.

So trying to fix things may not be the answer, even if solutions are clearly visible.  Timing is everything!

While this video pokes fun of her refusal to problem-solve, it accurately highlights the truth in relationships: validation trumps solutions.

Empathic Listening: Why it Matters

But why is that? How can being heard bear such weight?

Feeling “felt” is a big part of emotional connection in relationships. Even when we have different perceptions of a situation, on a primal level we want to be understood from our point of view. Especially with distressing emotions, we need to know our partners will turn to us with understanding in order to feel safe.  Without this, relationships fail. (To see more about the importance of emotional connection click here).

Empathic listening also is very healing to our partners. It’s a way for us to receive them as they truly are without judgment. We can “hear them into speech” and facilitate their full self-expression. This is a gift.

But not only is it good for them, it’s good for you! Empathic listening puts money into joint emotional joint bank account, for deposits we need later on.

Empathic Listening: What it is

So it’s worth learning about if it’s not your strong suit. Put simply, empathic listening is the commitment to hold the space for our partners to express their feelings to completion.

This requires being able to not only sense what the other person is experiencing, but to receive it with compassion and translate it into an empathetic interaction. It is the ability to be accurate, suspend judgment, and communicate understanding to your partner.

Empathic listening is not necessary in much of our day-to-day conversations.  But it’s essential and profound in certain situations. For example, when you sense the topic is important to your partner, or if they are experiencing emotion or speaking from the heart.

Empathic Listening: 4 Things to Do

So during the times when the situation calls for empathic listening, here are 4 things you can do:

  • Control your urge to talk, help, or fix. At least for now. Your partner will be more likely to receive your advice once you have validated their feelings.
  • Acknowledge both perception and feeling of your partner. This means indicating that you see what they see from their point of view, and recognizing their feelings about it. It doesn’t mean you feel the same way. It just means that if you were them, you’d feel that way too. Just acknowledging without judgment that your partner really is having the experience they say they are is very powerful.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand. If something doesn’t make sense and this prevents acknowledgment, just ask for clarification. This makes you an active listener and helps your partner feel understood.
  • Being fully present and listen beneath the surface. This means listening with all your senses. Notice body language, sound, energy, and stay tuned into everything being expressed.

There are exercises you can do to refine these skills, which I will share next week!

In the meantime, set your intention and make the commitment to listening with empathy. If you do, major shifts are in store!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments  below 🙂

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