What is Empathetic Listening?

Empathetic listening goes a step further into trying to understand the feelings and emotions that are driving the speakers point of view.  When we are listening empathetically we are trying to understand what the speaker is feeling.

For some people this comes easily and effortlessly but for others it is something that is very difficult because they have trouble decoding the non-verbal messages that the speaker is sending or because they are projecting their own feelings. Projecting feelings means you think that the other person is feeling the same way you are.

Demonstrating Active Listening

As a mediator it is important that we practice active and empathetic listening especially during the parties opening statements.  This is for two main reasons:

  1. It is important that we, and the other party, fully understand the issues that has brought the party speaking to mediation and how they are feeling about those issues
  2. By demonstrating active listening we set the tone and help the other party to understand what active listening is and how to do it

Active listening requires listening without unnecessarily interrupting the speaker. During opening statements the parties are given uninterrupted time to convey their message.

  • The mediator needs to step in with clarifying questions if they are not effective in communicating their message
  • The mediator uses summaries to make sure that what they have heard is what the speaker intended on conveying
  • The mediator asks questions about feelings to make sure that everyone is clear about the emotional impact of the conflict and to build empathy (understanding of others emotions)