Communication 101

Empathetic Listening: Why Does It Matter?

September 12, 2022
5 min read

Improving your communication through presentations, better pitches, and articulating your ideas more clearly are critical for giving your career a boost. Unfortunately, many leaders and employees fail to devote the proper attention to their listening skills. 

Learning to listen better at work will help you understand your colleagues, develop healthy working relationships, and foster collaboration among team members. One quietly powerful form that you should focus on is empathetic listening.

Below, Poised explains empathetic listening and shows you how to become an invaluable team member. Poised is the AI-powered communication coach that can help you self reflect about your own communication and listening skills.

What Does Empathetic Listening Mean?

You can sum up the purpose of empathetic listening with the word “connection.“ 

You practice empathic listening when you take a moment to understand someone else’s inner world. It’s truly absorbing what an individual is or isn’t saying so that you can better understand them and offer validation for how the speaker feels.

Empathetic listening is often confused with active listening. With either way of listening, you must provide full attention to another person to understand them deeper and relate to their personal life or professional experiences. 

The primary difference is that empathetic listening emphasizes the individual's emotional experience instead of focusing on a list of actionable steps or team strategies. That’s what makes this type of listening such an important skill for effective communication.

If you want to cultivate improved emotional connections with your colleagues and genuinely comprehend someone’s needs, point of view, and motivations, developing your empathetic listening skills is the path forward. It can definitely help your team strategize and improve your strategies and initiatives, but the focus is on developing stronger relationships. 

With active listening, creating a better to-do list is a first-level goal. It’s critical to note that those are a byproduct of empathetic listening and the overarching commitment to better understand a person's emotional state.

If you’ve been a professional for only five minutes, you know the importance of listening to what your colleagues are saying. Empathetic listening means discerning how and why a person is saying what they’re saying. It gives you insight into that person‘s emotional experience so that you can sympathize and empathize.

It’s hard to overstate how crucial it is for team members to practice empathetic listening. It helps create a safe and flourishing work environment where people can be themselves and open, and honest communication is the norm.

Putting Yourself in Another Person’s Shoes

Empathy means to imagine what another person might be feeling, which naturally directs your attention outwards rather than on your own feelings, reactions, or experiences. You don’t need first-hand experience in a situation to practice empathic listening techniques. You simply have to try and relate to the emotions driving the conversation.

Next time you speak with a team member, try thinking about how they might feel when talking to you — your whole perspective may change. 

Focusing Intently on the Other Person’s Words

A big part of empathetic listening is discerning the underlying emotions of a conversation. It means to pay attention to why and how an individual is saying what they’re saying. Still, that doesn’t mean their words have any less value.

On the contrary, empathetic listening requires you to focus intently on the words and ideas your colleague is putting forth. It’s not just problem solving and trying to find ways to “fix” your coworkers. Tapping into the emotional aspects and absorbing the words they are saying is what helps you connect with your conversation partner on a deeper level.

Why Does Empathetic Listening Matter?

For one, it helps you become attuned to the emotional experiences of others, which enables you to better understand their behavior and how to respond. It also goes a long way in boosting collaboration and engagement among your team.

Further, inviting others to be honest and free can lead to more meaningful interactions and build trust over time, leading to stronger relationships with your coworkers.

Let’s touch on a few other reasons empathetic listening matters:

Empathetic Listening Makes People Feel Understood

The only way to truly understand someone is to listen to them and put yourself in their shoes. Your team members will recognize when you are listening empathetically (and being a good listener in general), and it will help them feel validated in their own emotions and experiences.

Empathetic Listening Makes You More Relatable

Most of us are drawn to people who listen to us. We realize the person is interested in what we are saying, instantly making them more relatable. Next time you speak with a coworker about a challenge they’re experiencing, tell them a story about a specific challenge you’ve dealt with. 

Empathetic Listening Makes You More Likable

Being relatable is a plus — being likable is next-level. When people develop an affinity for you, they’re more apt to listen to your ideas and work with you.

Besides increasing your value in the company, this will benefit your team's collaboration efforts and help you establish a reputation in the industry.

How Do You Improve Your Empathetic Listening Skills?

The first step to becoming a more empathetic listener is learning to recognize where you fall short and resolving to do better in your next conversation. The key is to focus on the other person more than yourself.

Here are some different ways to up your game:

Improve Your Communication Skills With Poised

Poised communication gives you speech coaching on the spot during video calls. It alerts you when you’re not showing enough empathy and provides real-time insights for improving (without the other person knowing you’re using it). 

Analyze Your Body Language While Listening

Your body language is everything regarding empathetic (and active) listening. Be conscious of your facial expressions and other non-verbal cues because they will tell the other person what you’re thinking and feeling.

Try to maintain eye contact as you listen. Avoid crossing your arms or legs; keeping an open posture will indicate that you’re open to what the other person is saying. If you need assistance in evaluating your body language, you can rely on AI like Poised to give you research-based feedback. 

Practice Empathy Exercises

Perhaps the best way to enhance your empathetic listening skills is to practice. Remember the core principle of thinking about the other person before yourself, and focus intently on the words and underlying emotions of the conversation. 

Elevate Your Empathy With Poised

Empathetic listening is effective listening. If you want to strengthen your relationships, boost team morale, and make yourself indispensable to your company, developing your emotional intelligence and empathetic listening skills is essential. 

The tips above will get you off to a strong start, but keep learning new ways to understand your colleagues on a deeper level. Lastly, take advantage of Poised’s coaching for empathy and many other communication metrics. 


Can You Become More Empathetic? Absolutely, and Here's How | PsychCentral

What Is Empathy? Definition, Types, and How to Be More Empathetic | Verywell Mind

19 Simple Social Skills that will Instantly Make You More Likable | Business Insider

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