Friday, March 7, 2014

Habits of the Mind: Listen with Understanding and Empathy

Communication is a two way street.  Someone needs to speak and someone else needs to listen, really listen with understanding and empathy.  Too often we hear the words, apply our own thoughts and experiences to them, and then react or respond to what we’ve translated.  When you take the time to listen with understanding and empathy you keep your own agenda and understanding at bay and focus in on the communicators expression of his/her truth and experience.  When we do this, we are “seeking first to understand” which is part of Covey’s guidelines for effectiveness. In his course he shares that when we hear without understanding it is much like putting on a pair of glasses with corrections that do not fit our needs.  No matter how hard we try to see it through this lens, we will not really grasp the real picture.  Until we listen not just with our ears but with our hearts as well we will miss the message that is being sent to us.
When we listen with understanding and empathy we need to check in with the person speaking to be sure that we are grasping the message correctly.  We can do that by saying, “So what I’m hearing you say…” or asking a clarifying question or requesting more information.  When we share our understanding of what was said we give the speaker the opportunity to clarify further.  Our language is so loaded with nuance and experiential understandings, that this clarification will often broaden our perceptions as well as deepen our understanding of others.

At Consult 4 Kids we want all youth workers to be positive role models and mentors for the youth they work with.  We have a comprehensive Staff Development Program that supports the progress of both frontline staff and site coordinators.  Check out our revamped website at

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