UMBC Wellness in the Workplace

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April 2014: “Cultivate Deep Listening Through Practicing Empathy”

Most of us know from experience that empathy is an important skill to cultivate in relationships. It is also a critical skill in order to master deep listening. When we can imagine what it’s like to walk in our partner’s shoes (from their perspective, not ours) and share this with them, our partner experiences a level of listening that is uncommon and powerful. In order to practice this, you first need to be present and let go of your own preconceptions and experiences that get in the way of your listening fully. Once you have heard the story, offer one-word emotions that describe what you think they must be feeling: “Given what you shared, you must be feeling…(concerned, betrayed, sad, fearful, loved, unsupported, giddy, disappointed, etc.).” Once you share these, you’ll want to check in for agreement: “Did I get that right? Are there other feelings?” and then reflect back any other emotions that they share as a result.

In the next month, try cultivating deeper levels of listening through empathizing with your partner. As you listen, envision yourself as an empty vessel, letting go of your opinions and experiences that are similar. Remember that we are all unique observers, no matter if we share similar experiences. If you drift off, shift your attention to your breathing to bring you back to the present moment. Notice how being present and practicing empathy not only improves your listening but allows your relationship to deepen to the next level as well.


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