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Although nonverbal empathy usually communicates more powerfully than verbal empathy, the words a listener mirrors back to the speaker are still vitally important.
Here are guidelines for being empathic when you listen to a speaker:
- Maintain the focus on the speaker (necessary)
- Focus on mirroring feelings first (crucial for most speakers)
- Focus on mirroring content associated with feelings (important)
- Develop your natural style by being authentic (ideal)
Here are four further guidelines:
- Avoid asking questions until after you show the speaker you understand him
- Avoid talking about yourself until after you show the speaker you understand him
- Avoid judging, criticizing, ridiculing, teasing,” shaming, etc. (always necessary)
- Minimize giving advice – Instead, facilitate the speaker to discover his own path
Empathy is most important to offer when a speaker is feeling vulnerable, upset or emotional. In other scenarios, empathy is usually not so important such as when discussing an intellectual topic or exchanging non-emotional information. Also, if a person seems to be avoidant or phobic with feelings, then initially mirroring the content related to the feelings may be more helpful than mirroring the feelings.
Remember, feelings are feelings–they are transitory. However powerful they are, they only exist one moment at a time. There is no right or wrong way to feel. When you express your honest feelings to an empathic listener, you are likely to experience and manifest more Prosperity Thinking afterward.
Inviting your comments: Tell us how an empathic person has made a difference in your life.
We’d like to invite you to the UCLA Extension workshop: Empathy Training: How to Empower Personal, Professional & Financial Relationships
James W. Gottfurcht, Ph.D.