Learning the Art of Empathetic Listening

Learning the Art of Empathetic Listening

Creating a win-win space for you and your spouse

By Focus on the Family Singapore | 8 February 2021

Empathetic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart... You’re listening to understand. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul." — Stephen Covey

We desire to be heard, and understood. When someone gives us the time and depth of empathetic listening, we feel valued. In turn, how do we develop the art of empathetic listening, especially in our marriage? Here are a few steps that best-selling author Gary Chapman shares in The 4 Seasons of Marriage.

  1. Listen to understand
    It is more instinctive to listen in order to speak than it is to listen to truly understand. By shifting gears to the latter, you can pave the way to truly empathising with your spouse.

    When we listen to speak, we are more likely to bring solutions instead of the support our spouse seeks. Where possible, the quietness that comes with listening to understand should be coupled with eye contact and physical contact, as it grounds both of you into sharing a moment of emotional intimacy.

  2. Withhold judgement on your spouse’s ideas
    In pushing our own opinions, we sometimes fail to recognise that our spouse has his or her feelings and views on the situation. Judging will never lead to greater understanding; instead it may lead to arguments or cold wars.

  3. Affirm your spouse, even if you disagree with his or her ideas
    When you affirm your spouse for sharing ideas and feelings with you, you give him or her the freedom to have those unique ideas and feelings. We bring emotional baggage from our past into our marriage, and it colours the way we view situations and solutions. Speaking aloud of the troubles that plague us may just be the cathartic release we need, and allows us to discard the negative or bad ideas swimming in our minds. So, providing support for your spouse allows him or her to feel seen, and safe in your relationship.

    For example: “I appreciate you sharing your feelings with me. Now I understand why you're so hurt. It hurts me to see you hurting, and I want to let you know that I’m with you.”

  4. Share your ideas only when your spouse feels understood
    Don’t be in a rush to dish out advice or propose an action plan. Do so only when it seems like your spouse has voiced out everything he or she is feeling, and when he or she is in the right frame of mind to do so.

    When your spouse feels understood, he or she will be far more open to hearing your point of view.

By listening empathetically to your spouse, you create an atmosphere where your spouse is more receptive to your views. When two people truly understand each other, they are better problem-solvers and partners in marriage and in life.

Empathetic listening is, in and of itself, a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account. It’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person psychological air… — Stephen Covey

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.


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