Change is hard. Change is complex. Change can also be good. While we know the last to be true, it’s hard to communicate that to someone amid a difficult change. A business transition can bring up complicated feelings for everyone involved, and it’s essential to take time to help people work through them. Listening for success(ion) is best accomplished using empathy.
Empathic listening is based on the root word, empathy, and while having empathy is not feeling sorry for the person or trying to make them feel better, it’s feeling what they feel. Listening empathically requires you to listen with all your senses and allow yourself to feel what the speaker is feeling. The benefit of this is that you can better understand where they are coming from, which then builds trust and connection.
Using Conflict for Good
Teams that have trust and connection also have an openness for conflict. Conflict is necessary if you want organizations to grow and if you want to promote innovation and problem solving. When teams have trust, it becomes ok to have conflict because that is how they make things happen which starts with the leader listening empathically.
Improve Through Practice
As with any new habit or skill, you will need to practice empathic listening before you can become great at it. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Quiet your mind. While this is easier if the conversation is planned, it can still be done quickly when you recognize that someone needs to speak to you. Take a deep cleansing breath, then jot any quick thoughts down to close out activities; put all electronics away out of sight. Be fully present.
- Silence is ok. Allow the person time to think and process as they’re speaking. Don’t keep repeating or rewording questions if they don’t answer right away.
- Listen with your ears and your heart including their words, their tone, and their body language. Use this information to put yourself into the position that they’re describing. Feel what they feel. Ask open-ended questions to better understand their feelings.
- Reflect these feelings back to them using your facial expressions, your body language, and your words.
- Don’t give advice unless the speaker asks. This can be one of the hardest coaching skills to master.
Listening for success(ion) requires a high degree of empathy to be effective. Luckily, empathy is a skill that we can choose to learn.