Empathy and Listening Skills

First Conversation

An ancedote about my, Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D.'s, use of empathy and listening skills during a conversation will introduce the use of empathy and listening skills to foster good relationships, emotional intimacy, happy marriages, and psychological hugs.

Before you begin reading this anecdote, consider getting oriented to this six-page website by reading its Home Page, titled Empathy, Listening Skills, and Relationships.

I use the term "listening skills" to include both listening and acknowledging what was heard or understood.

My Conversation   oooooooo

I was walking to the exit of a four-story parking building next to a five-story medical clinic. The day was Friday, the time was 2:25pm, and the building was crammed with cars. A man who appeared to be 75-years-old walked in. As he neared me, he stopped, turned towards me and said: "Are they giving something away today? I've never seen it so crowded."

He appeared unable to believe that the building was filled to capacity.

"I'll bet it's because many people don't work on Fridays, so it's convenient for them to schedule their appointments on Fridays," I said.

My response did not acknowledge either his perception of the building as crowded or his astonishment that it was crowded. I had given him an explanation, not an acknowledgement.

"It's not because it's Friday. I usually come here on Fridays and it's never been this crowded," he said.

"It is very crowded today, and I don't know why," I said.

Finally I had acknowledged his perception that the building was crowded! He probably would have been more satisfied if I had also acknowledged his feeling by adding, for example: "You're astonished that it's so crowded."


Discussion of Empathy and Listening Skills   oooooooo

I tried to acknowledge the astonished man's statement because of my interest in this activity. Otherwise, I would have responded by saying something such as "That's interesting" or "I hadn't noticed" and continued walking to the exit. I am not advocating that you spend your valuable time acknowledging the statements of every person you meet.

One reason for my inadequate use of empathy and listening skills was my preoccupation with arriving for my appointment on time. Another reason is that I, an empathy and listening skills expert, continually work on improving my skills, similar to a violinist with a major symphony orchestra practicing several times a week even after the end of the concert season.

I did not know why the man was astonished about the parking building being filled. What did matter was that he was astonished, and felt impelled to share his astonishment with another person, me in this case, and have me acknowledge it.

If I had continued talking with him, I believe that my use of empathy and listening skills would have increased my potential for establishing a good relationship with him.


Empathy, Listening Skills, and Acknowledging   oooooooo

The term empathic acknowledging was coined by me to label the use of empathy and listening skills during a conversation.

An example: I listened to the astonished man and empathized with his perception that the garage was full (but, unfortunately, did not empathize with his astonishment).

I acknowledged him by spending some of my valuable time listening with empathy to his statement.

I acknowledged his statement by sharing my understanding of it with him.

To follow the unfolding of this website, read the Empathy and Listening Skills - Method page next.


If you liked this site, e-mailing me your thanks will reward me for creating it and help sustain my motivation to keep it going for future visitors.

My Other Websites on Empathy and Listening Skills

Empathy, Listening Skills, and Intimacy is an expanded version of the above website.

Listening Skills and Relationships is a discussion board which includes messages from me and my responses to messages from others. To read or post messages, you do not have to register. Visit the board to read questions and answers, ask or answer questions, share experiences, etc.

Sympathy versus Empathy explains the differences and similarities between sympathy and empathy.

Empathy contains a description of a conversation with a United States Copyright Office representative during which I used empathy.

Empathy and Listening Skills illustrates the difference between understanding the information the other person is saying to you versus understanding the meaning to her of saying the information.

Listening Skills contains a description of listening to my wife talk about her grocery shopping trips.

Communication Skills illustrates my use of nonverbal "listening skills" during a conversation to assess whether the other person is receiving my message.

Listening Skills Professionals Listen Empathically -1 explains why I advocate that society establish the profession of empathic listener as a profession separate and independent from that of psychotherapist.

Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 by Lawrence J. Bookbinder, Ph.D.