In his seminal work,  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey introduced his philosophy on empathic communication…Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Dr. Covey notes that there are five types of listening: Ignoring, Pretending, Selective, Attentive and Empathic.

Exceptional communicators strive to achieve that pinnacle stage of becoming an empathic listener, i.e. “putting yourself in the other person’s proverbial shoes”. This means paying attention to the level that we truly understand their feelings and emotions.

The physical act of hearing is different that the mental act of listening. Listening with empathy requires a concerted effort to commit your undivided attention to the speaker. Sounds easy, does hard!

Fortunately, we can develop the skills to become better listeners, and communicators.

One technique that has helped me improve in this area is to conscientiously “listen with my eyes.” By maintaining comfortable and consistent eye contact with the speaker, it helps me to focus on them and to better concentrate on the message they are trying to deliver.

listen eyes