Meaningful communication doesn't always just happen. It takes skill. Empathetic listening will help you thrive as a mindful communicator.

Practicing empathic listening benefits you both personally and professionally.

It helps you understand cues from someone's voice, feelings, and body language. Plus it builds trust and sets you up to respond as best you can, no matter the conversation.

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Empathy Is Not Sympathy

Empathy and sympathy, while closely related, are not the same.

Sympathy is expressing your pity for someone's misfortune;

Empathy refers to being sensitive and aware of others' emotions, experiences, and thoughts. Simply put, empathy is that you are experiencing others' feelings.

Being an empathetic listener goes beyond saying: " I understand that" or " Everything is gonna be OK". It's about your willingness and awareness to put yourself in others' shoes.

Check out this video to see the differences between an empathetic listener and a sympathetic listener.


What makes Sadness an empathetic listener?

How To Be An Empathetic Listener

  • Be fully present

Pay full attention to the conversation you're in. Don't look at your phone. Focus on the speaker.

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  • Be patient

Often, people need time to feel comfortable when talking about something embarrassing or painful. Give the speaker the moment they need. Don't rush talking. Sometimes, silence is also a natural and appropriate response.

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  • Let the speaker take the lead

It's great to encourage the speaker to talk more by introducing your own experience, but be aware of turning this conversation into your own narrative. Let the talker decide what they wants to share and be all ears.

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  • Show engagement

Leaning, nodding, and rephrasing what the speaker says shows that you are listening.

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  • Read non-verbal cues

Body language, facial expressions, and gestures can send powerful cues about the feelings of communicators. These non-verbal clues will give you much more information about the speaker's true feelings.

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  • Hold your judgment

You may or may not agree with the perspective of others. No matter what your standpoint is, "no judgment, just help" is the basic rule to be an empathetic listener.

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Additional Guidance

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  • Maintain confidentiality

We often use the term confidentiality in the business context. Actually, even if we are talking with friends or families, it is important to keep private conversations private. Confidentiality builds a trusting and lasting relationships.

  • Stay composed

When you are listening to a story that makes you feel emotional, try to keep calm. If you have a strong reaction, you might fuel the speaker's emotions, or make them feel like they need to take care of you.

  • Practice daily

Empathetic listening is a skill that can be learned, developed, and enhanced through practice. Make empathetic listening a habit. It's a trait of respect, humanity, and care.


When Tom told you his experience of being bullied, and you though it would be a great example in teaching your little brother about respect. What would you do?

Take Action

Empathetic listening is a social skill that helps build stronger connections and competency to regulate your own emotions.

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Pick one of these strategies, and make it your mission to apply it in conversations this week.

Write it on a post-it note or set it as an alarm in your phone.

At the end of the week, reflect: how have my conversations changed?


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