Empathy: The Art of Listening
We generally want to respond when people speak to us. For example, someone says, “I’m so tired, I couldn’t get any work done.” Some typical responses listed below are often said with the best of intentions, but can unknowingly create distance and disconnection.
We call these empathy blockers.
“I’m so tired myself. I couldn’t get any work done either.”
• Advising / Fixing
“Maybe you should get more sleep.”
“Maybe you should get some vitamins.”
“Maybe you should…”
“There’s a good book you should get on sleep and productivity.”
“You know, this seems to be a pattern of yours.”
“That’s too bad. I’m sure things will go better tomorrow.”
“Okay, but shouldn’t you just be glad you have a job?”
Some things we can say to express empathy
• “I hear you.” Said with sincerity, meets a person’s need to be heard.
• “Tell me more.” Said with sincerity, shows you are really interested.
• “I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just grateful you told me.”
When someone is in a difficult place, this may be all you have to say.
– Empathy is Being Interested Rather Than Being Interesting –
Upset feelings typically are attributed to a need not being met. Here is a handy cheat sheet for Feelings Associated with Met and Unmet Needs.
Activities and Worksheets
10 Children’s Books That Teach Empathy Via Self-Sufficient Kids