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Empathic listening

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This leads us nicely to empathic listening which is the ability to be attentive and responsive to what someone is saying during a helping conversation. It’s a way of relating to another person’s viewpoint, feelings and emotions and to make a connection with them. It also helps you find similarities between their experience and yours.

Empathic listening includes being non-judgmental. If you let go of your own opinions, it’s easier to focus on the other person’s perspective. It will help you acknowledge their views. You don’t have to agree with them, but it’s important for them to know you have listened carefully and their thoughts and emotions matter.

It also requires good listening skills. Listening is such a common activity that we sometimes forget how important it is to do it well. You can probably think of a time when you thought you were listening, but as soon as the person stopped talking you realised you couldn’t remember what they said !

Here’s some good listening habits which you can practice in your every day life and helping role. You’ll also have the opportunity to practice your listening skills if you apply for the Step Three course.

Good listening habits:

  1. Pay attention. Remember to avoid distractions. That could mean putting your phone away or moving to a quieter space. It shows respect and will enable you to focus on the person.
  2. Let the person speak without interruption.
  3. Avoid saying “I know how you feel”. Your lived experience may be similar but how you both feel about it may be very different.
  4. Try to understand what the person is saying. You could say something like “I think what I’ve heard you say is xxxx. Is that right?” That gives them the opportunity to say “actually, it was a bit more about this…”
  5. Try not to think about what you’re going to say while the person is still talking.
  6. Don’t be afraid of silence. There may be a pause in the conversation because the person is gathering their thoughts or trying to contain their emotions. It can be enough for a person to know you’re there and that you care.
  7. Keep an open mind.
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Personalised Care: Peer Leadership Foundation - Step Two

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