AN RSA SHORT: BRENE BROWN ON EMPATHY
How often do you truly feel listened to?
How often do you truly listen?
How often do you feel responded to appropriately when you open up?
I can say that when someone feels completely heard, something shifts. Subtle as it may be, the power of hearing someone wholeheartedly is one of the biggest gifts.
Let’s look at the qualities of true listening. I will draw on the wisdom of others here:
* Eckhart Tolle, author of ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘A New Earth’:
'True listening is another way of bringing stillness into the relationship. When you truly listen to someone, the dimension of stillness arises and becomes an essential part of the relationship. But true listening is a rare skill. Usually, the greater part of a person’s attention is taken up by their thinking. At best, they may be evaluating your words or preparing the next thing to say. Or they may not be listening at all, lost in their own thoughts. True listening goes far beyond auditory perception. It is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received….'
* Stephen R Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’:
'Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.'
* Mark Murphy, Empathetic Listening article on Forbes:
'When we listen empathically we’re focusing our attention on the person who’s talking; we’re focused on climbing inside their head and seeing the world as they see it. When we do that, not only do we understand this person much more but their trust in us only grows.'
True listening doesn’t just mean that you are only listening to words with your ears. When you are physically present with the communicator, there is the act of listening with your eyes and your whole heart. If your visual attention is elsewhere and you are not fully engaged then the disconnection is felt, whether you realise it or not. There is much to be heard and interpreted in the visual expressions. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of ‘Silent Messages’ conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found the following to be true:
7% of any message is conveyed through words
38% through certain vocal elements
55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc)
If you are not using all your antenna’s to connect with the person then not only are you missing the chance to truly listen, but the other person will experience disconnection in the felt sense.
To further elaborate on this, after you have listened, how will you respond? I have found that some people think that by responding with silence that they are doing you good. Know that silence can be loud. So as with the listening, the quality of an appropriate response will determine the moment of connection or disconnection.
* Jeff Brown, author of ‘Love it Forward’:
'There are two types of relational silence, the one that serves the connection and one that damages it. In the first, silence comes with a qualifier ‘i need some time to reflect’ which is healthy and respectful to the connection. In the second the silence comes with no qualifier and others are left to wonder what is actually happening. In this case, silence is actually a violence…..'
This sounds harsh, doesn’t it? I have intentionally let it be there to make a point. An unaware icy silence to someone opening up is as inappropriate as someone who piles on nauseating positivity, unsolicited opinions, or misses your pain point and dives right into their own stories.
At the beginning of this message is Brene Brown's RSA short video about Empathy, an excellent illustration of listening and responding with your whole heart. I invite you to watch this. It is based on her research about Empathy v Sympathy.
Mark Murphy’s ‘Empathetic Listening’ article on Forbes greatly informs the nuances of empathetic listening, including some examples of responses which people think are empathetic, and in fact they are non-empathetic.
Lack of empathy can be reducing and leave a lingering sting. A moment like that can cause a jolt and it can change the trajectory of trust.
For anyone who has been on the side of not receiving empathy in a moment where you were hungry for it, don’t allow another persons lack of response ability mean any kind of truth about you, ever.
'Never underestimate the significance of having someone you can be emotionally genuine with to your mental well-being. Our lives turn around merely due to the presence of just that one person who understands our deepest shames, insecurities, and yet make us feel perfectly lovable and respected. If you cannot find one, be one'
~ Drishti Bablani
We live in a paradox every day. We seek human connection yet we first must understand what it really takes to give the gift of heartfelt understanding.
What will you choose?