Empathy and the Art of Listening

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shhI am an interrupter; perhaps you are too. I try not to be, but I have a tendency to move on with a thought before other people have a chance to finish. Its rude, it stifles conversation, and I think it has retarded my ability to empathize with others. I recently read book titled Emotional Intelligence 2.0. It was surprisingly insightful and revealed something about myself I had never considered before: I am not that empathetic. I work as a pastor, a children's pastor, and have always considered myself very empathetic. I can intuitively sense the needs of others and respond accordingly. But I don't always come across as being an empathetic person because I am not great at listening. I think that I know what people are saying before they have a chance to say it. Sometimes this is true and sometimes its not; but it doesn't matter: I need to rediscover how to listen.

rediscover how to listen

Smart people are listeners, they realize that true empathy is a two way street. Its not enough to "get" people. They need to know that you "get" them in order to feel understood. Your wit must submit to their witness. Slow down, let people talk, and let people know that you understand what they are saying. There is a profound connection between being heard and being understood. Give the gift of "shutting up" to someone today. You will truly understand them better and they will see you as a more empathetic person.