During the NVC foundation trainings that I run, we learn a skill called ‘Empathic listening’. To assist this learning, I often find it useful to start with a game that aims to teach the group; what empathic listening is not.
I won’t go into all the details of the game here but I will say that while one person tells a story of a problem they have had, I instruct certain others in the group to respond in various ways that are common when people think they are listening.
They include; trying to fix it; give advice; ask detail questions; ‘one-upping’ with a story of their own; and many others…
The problem with all of these ways of listening is that instead of simply receiving the message being sent by the storyteller, we interrupt the flow of communication and send energy in the wrong direction. We are doing all this with good intentions but unfortunately, it has the unsatisfying result of making the storyteller feel like they haven’t been truly heard.
Most of us are not aware of this of course; it is simply the way we have been brought up to listen to others. We want to help. We want to offer them a solution. But in doing so, we pull the spotlight away from the storyteller and disempower them to find their own clarity and resolution.
Next week I will talk more about what empathic listening is and how you can do more of it, but until then, it helps to be aware of exactly what it is not.