“Seek first to understand, then be understood” (Covey 2004). Those are wise words by Stephen Covey. Mr.Covey is referring to empathic listening. “When I say empathic listening I am not referring to the techniques of active listening or reflective listening. When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand” (Covey 2004). It is important to note that empathy is not sympathy. The difference is that sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgement. And it is sometimes more appropriate emotion and response. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone; it’s that you fully deeply, understand that person emotionally as well as intellectually. An interesting statistic that came up in the reading is that, “Communication experts estimate, in fact, that only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say.
Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language” (Covey 2004). In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also, more importantly listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen for feeling, for meaning. I tend to think that I am a great listener. At an early age in elementary school, I learned the importance of not only expressing my feelings properly through using I messages (such as I feel sad because…) I learned how to also listen to what others say. Expressing ourselves is only a small part of communicating. Mr.COvey mentioned there are many different types of listening such as: ignoring, pretending, selective listening, attentive listening and empathic listening. I was always taught empathic listening over selective and attentive listening. I remember the guidance counselor coming into my classes in elementary and middle school to do listening exercises with the class.
She wanted us to really understand there is a difference between listening and empathic listening. Fast forward to today, I am really grateful I had the experience of learning all about empathic listening. Being a preschool teacher is not easy work, many problems arise in the classroom throughout the day. These problems can be simple or as complicated as a student not sharing with another student. When these problems arise, I have to put on my empathic listening hat and really understand why my student is feeling the way he/she is. I possess great communication and listening skills. Many of my co-workers have told me that I am a great listener and someone whom they can relate to.
I am that person that someone comes to talk to when they are having a bad day, and need someone to vent to. I feel honored that my fellow co-workers feel comfortable coming to me and talking with me and expressing what is on their mind. Empathic listening can change the transactional in to transformational because someone can think you are merely just listening, but in fact you may be doing more than that and that may change their world. They may appreciate you much more for empathic listening than selective listening. You never know when you can transform someone’s life just by listening to them. All in all, I do practice empathic listening each day because I know how important it is. I love being an empathic listener!