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Empathy In Action – How To Be A Reflective Listener

What is empathy? Empathy is the ability to recognize another’s feelings and take their perspective. Empathy in action is the ability to be with someone, listen to what they say, feel it with them, and be able to reflect it back. This is an important skill that can be applied to any and all relationships such as romantic relationships, friendships, or even work relationships. Here are some steps to become a reflective listener:

 Step 1 – Be Present

By this I mean be involved in the conversation and not distracted by something else. At times important conversations at home might take place in front of the television which may not be the best place to really grasp what each other is saying. By being free from distractions it helps you to listen and it helps the other person to feel like you are actively listening to them.

 Step 2 – Listen

Let the sender send their message.

Step 3 – Reflect Back

Reflecting back is essentially restating what they have just said using different words. The word reflect sounds like a mirror which is exactly what you’re supposed to do. Mirror the words back and paraphrase what they said. An example of a reflection is below.

Sender: Work really gets me frustrated sometimes. It’s like they don’t even care about my potential. All I do is listen to everyone else’s orders. I could do well if they just gave me the opportunity!

Receiver: You feel like the little guy at work. You want to be more independent and have more opportunities.

 Step 4 – Listen Again

Let the message sender keep going. They probably have more to say than what they have just said.

 Step 5 – Continue to Reflect

Reflect back again. It lets the person know that you heard what they just said. The way you speak and reflect also lets them know you empathize with them. If you have questions this would be the time for you to ask questions and clarify anything that you need to understand better. Feeling words are also great to add into your reflections. It lets the sender know you are really feeling this with them and fully understand what they have to say. A second example of a reflection with a feeling word is below.

Sender: Exactly! I mean I like my job it’s just I’d like the chance for growth. It gets old doing the same thing day in and day out.

Receiver: It sounds like you’re really frustrated by this.

A lot of times people just need us to listen instead of impart our opinions and thoughts on them. By just using those simple reflection tools you can have much more meaningful conversations with people. It helps us be able to understand better if we can take others perspectives and become less judgmental in our discussions.

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