This is how we show we’re on the same wavelength as they. This is how you’re going to strengthen your interpersonal communication skills. This is how you’ll have healthier, happier relationships.
Do you have a hard time connecting with people in an authentic and meaningful way. Do your interpersonal relationships never get beyond the initial introductory phase? Do you have a limited perspective on what the speaker is saying? Do you have trouble deepening your conversations with people? Do you struggle with being alert to nonverbal communication?
In this article, we are going to discuss 3 strategies for empathizing in communication. Empathetic communication allows us to be attuned to not only the content of the message but also the feelings and intention behind the delivery of the message.
Why should you care about empathetic communication?
Empathetic communication allows you to validate the persons feelings. And you’re showing them that they are not wrong for feeling such emotions.
Communicating with empathy will help you listen to the person in a non-judgmental way. It will help build your relationship with the person because they’ll feel they can open up to you and trust you. It’ll allow you to respond in a meaningful and targeted way that is not about providing them with advice or solutions but instead really hearing them out and validating their experience.
These two strategies are highly practical, and you can implement them in the next conversation you have today.
Strategy 1: Paraphrasing
With paraphrasing, you are putting into your own words what the speaker said without injecting your own assumptions, feeling, thoughts, actions or experiences. The purpose is to check for understanding.
Checking for understanding works because it shows you’re trying to really understand their message and their emotions. In other words, you’re making it about them. And you’re showing that you care and are invested. You’re not framing your response while they are sharing. You are not providing advice or solutions. But you’re validating their feelings of frustration, anger, fear, etc. It helps build a stronger connection between you and the speaker.
Here are some examples:
- I totally see how this event made you angry
- Being worried in a situation like this is not uncommon
- You’re feeling really frustrated right now.
- I’m not sure anyone could understand the pain you must be in
- You have every right to be disappointed in the cause of this miscommunication
Here are some question frames you can use when reflecting:
- From what I understand you are feeling …
- As I hear it, you are feeling …
- I’m sensing that maybe you feel… is that it?
- It sounds as though you’re indicating ….[emotion]
- What I hear you saying is …
- If I’m understanding correctly, you’re expressing…
- I’m picking up that you kind of feel … [emotion]
So to sum up, Paraphrasing accomplishes: validating the person’s perspective, understanding their emotions, and showing that you are actively listening to them.
By paraphrasing you allow them to hear what you’ve understood and let the speaker correct you if needed. It allows you to clarify anything you have misunderstood or are unsure about.
Strategy 2: Mirroring
This is when you repeat what the speaker said. It can almost be verbatim because you are not putting into your own words what the person is expressing. It’s simple and short. You are simply reflecting the emotion behind the message.
Why’s this important:
The purpose is to show you’re on the same page, you’re actively listening, and you are encouraging them to continue speaking. Just don’t overdo it with this because it can be a hinderance to the flow of the conversation.
Here are some examples:
(1) I just don’t get the shareholders. One minute they’re backing up our product. The next minute they’re saying we’re not ready to IPO.
Mirroring: I’m sensing you feel frustrated by the shareholders.
(2) Why doesn’t the department just do something about this? They knew about this issue for a long time now. Their incompetence is baffling.
Mirroring: I can see why you feel very stressed by this.
So to sum up, mirroring helps you show empathy for the speaker.
When you reflect meaning you are trying to mirror the experience and the emotional response to the event. It’s a way of tying together both the speaker’s message and their expression of emotion.
Strategy 3: Using supportive body language
Supportive body language entails eye contact and nodding.
In terms of eye contact, you are connecting with them by meeting their gaze.
Eye contact is important, but just be sure you don’t want to stare at them. You might think of actually looking at their nose because that’s centered so you don’t find yourself doing the searching eyes like you see actors do or staring
Regarding the triple nod, you nod three times. This one’s interesting because research shows that a triple nod will compel the speaker to talk for up to 4 times longer than they would have if you hadn’t nodded. It makes them feel like you care. They feel listened to and important. Every speaker hopes to be listened to. Ultimately we all want to feel heard.
The triple nod will be useful when you notice that the speaker is a bit reticent. When we’re shy or hesitant we might be reluctant to share our thoughts and feelings for fear of judgement. This is when a triple nod will serve you well. It will encourage them to continue because you’re showing them you are here to listen and not to judge.
By making eye contact and nodding you’re essentially fronting. And you are focusing 100% attention on them. Phone’s away and not even in sight, they have your undivided attention. This helps build the connection through non-verbal cues.
To sum up strategy three, you’re utilizing your non-verbal communication skills: body language to show empathetic listening.
This is the VIP treatment we all deserve. If you communicate with empathy, you’ll find that you will also receive empathetic listening in return. And believe me when I say, there will be a time when you need someone to listen to you. And really listen.
So let’s quickly recap:
Our problem we’re solving is non-empathetic and superficial listening, which doesn’t foster an open channel of communication or building rapport
We’ve discussed 3 ways to become an empathetic listener by implementing reflecting strategies which are
- leveraging supportive body language
Strategy #1 should be easy but just be sure not to interject your own points of view or advice. #2 Mirroring should be straightforward, just resist the urge to do too much of this because it’ll impede their flow. And #3 body language is quite easy. Make sure you overdo it because it could become distracting if you are nodding too much or locking eyes with them for too long. Don’t be a weirdo about it, just sprinkle these nonverbals into your empathetic communication to show the speaker the uninterrupted attention they deserve when sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings.
My advice is to practice those in new settings and you’ll gradually start to see the benefits of empathetic listening.
You’ll be able to show you are on the same wavelength as the speaker by understanding the driving emotion behind the message. So it’s about building empathy in conversation by paying attention to content, emotion, and intention.
Remember, Explearners, this empathetic communication is a step toward becoming a non-judgmental and more empathetic listener. It opens the door to more genuine conversation, deeper relationships, and trustworthiness.