It fosters more meaningful, more helpful, closer friendships.
Empathy is one of the more important skills you will ever acquire.
It is amazing how few people do it well.
STEP ONE: Learn to be a good, active listener.
Listening requires us to, first, really want to know the other person
and, second, avoid the many common barriers to careful listening,
such as (1) constantly comparing yourself to the speaker (Who is
smarter? Who's had it rougher? This is too hard for me.), (2) trying to
mind read what the talker really thinks (Suppose he really likes his
wife? He probably thinks I'm stupid for saying that), (3) planning what
argument or story to give next, (4) filtering so that one hears only
certain topics or doesn't hear critical remarks, (5) judging a statement
to be "crazy," "boring," "stupid," "immature," "hostile," etc. before it is
completed, (6) going off on one's own daydreams, (7) remembering
your own personal experiences instead of listening to the talker, (8)
busily drafting your prescription or advice long before the talker has
finished telling his/her woes, (9) considering every conversation an
intellectual debate with the goal of putting down the opponent, (10)
believing you are always right so no need to listen, (11) quickly
changing the topic or laughing it off if the topic gets serious, and (12)
placating the other person ("You're right...Of course...I
agree...Really!") by automatically agreeing with everything (McKay,
Davis & Fanning, 1983). Because of these barriers, we typically retain
for a few minutes only 65% of what is said to us (recall 2 months later
is 25%). There is much room for improvement.
It is not easy to listen actively all the time. Our concentration lasts
only 15-20 minutes. All of us get distracted at times. But the good
listener gets back on track and asks clarifying questions when things
aren't clear. Above all we must guard against prejudices, closed-
minded opinions, defenses, and fears of being wrong which prevent us
from hearing what is said. Furthermore, we must check what we hear
against our knowledge of the situation and human nature. We should
ask: How is the talker feeling and thinking about him/herself? How
does he/she see the world? Finally, we must "listen to" the facial
expression and body language as well as the words. Listening is a
complex task. Listening can be done at twice the rate of talking, so use
the extra time to review what was said and to wonder what wasn't
If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear