Effective Empathizing

Recently, a client told me about a conversation where she felt she was being pacified by a preoccupied, passive listening. The listener, her colleague, was peppering the conversation with an occasional ‘uh huh’ and ‘well, do that’ or ‘sounds good’ to what she considered very important and sacred information. She could tell the listener was multi-tasking and not really paying close attention. Finally, she told me she felt unheard and irrelevant to her friend. In fact, she validated this feeling when she asked her friend after one of these idle fillers, “What did I just say that ‘sounded good’ to you?” Needless to say, the supposed listener was caught not listening. Geez – what an awkward moment!

Each of us have probably felt ‘not heard’ at one time or another. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we have probably been guilty of not actively and sincerely listening to our friends and colleagues 100% of the time, as well.

In order to be effective leaders, not to mention friends, husbands, wives, etc, we need to tune in and truly actively listen to one another. We need to use sincere references which reflect exactly what we are hearing. Consider:

“What I am hearing is ‘x’, am I hearing this correctly?”
“What a lovely thing to say” or “What an insightful observation.”

There is nothing more powerful in establishing rapport with someone than sincere, authentic, and truly empathetic listening. We need to think twice before we use the lazy ‘ums’ and ‘uh huhs’ in our conversations AND if we are too busy for an engaged conversation, simply postpone it to a time when we can.