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active listening techniques and empathy

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© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.

Active listening is linked to paralinguistic and non-verbal communication and it includes: 

  • verbal active listening techniques; 
  • paralinguistic active listening techniques; 
  • non-verbal active listening techniques. 

These techniques will be examined in the following paragraphs. 

Let’s underline now an essential aspect of empathy: 

  1. the person who is talking must be aware that they will not be judged. They also should not be ashamed of what they are feeling or saying, no matter how odd or serious things are – from their point of view; empathy is a special area in the space-time continuum – a person can say everything they want, without facing any negative consequences; 
  1. the person who is talking must be aware that they can start making some progress and moving forward only when they have accepted themselves as they are, not matter what they did or what they thought, whether they like it or not. 

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am,  

then I can change”. 

Carl Rogers 

Verbal active listening techniques 

Verbal listening techniques focus on the use of all those words that express attention and willingness to understand. 

  • Open questionswho, where, when, how, why, with whom, how long and other questions that broaden and clarify the conversation. 
  • Closed or clarifying questions: they verify parts of the speech through “yes–no questions”, or other general answers (“a lot/a little”, “before/after”). “It happened just before meeting Angela” “How long before it happened? One hour? One day?” or “Are you happy with your car?” 
  • Mirror technique (reflection of content): repetition of sentences – or parts of sentences – the speaker said, without modifying or altering them. The mirror technique comes from the empathic listening methodologies used in the Rogerian4 therapeutic interview. It is a psychotherapeutic technique that allows the speakers to deepen their thoughts – and to express themselves. “So, you are telling me that…” 
  • Paraphrase: use of “as if”. Trying to understand what has been said by using metaphors or examples that are useful to figure out whether we really understood the deep meaning of what the other person is saying. “You are telling me that it seems like they poured water into your jug without realising it was already full, am I right?” 
  • Factual and historical overview, summary: repetition of what has been said by summarising the main points of the “story”. “If I got that right, what happened could be summed up by saying that…” 
  • Verbal encouragement: e.g. “good”, “interesting”, “yes”, “okay”. 

© Article translated from the book “Ascolto attivo ed empatia. I segreti di una comunicazione efficace“. copyright Dr. Daniele Trevisani Intercultural Negotiation Training and Coaching, published with the author’s permission. The Book’s rights are on sale and are available. If you are interested in publishing the book in any language, or seek Intercultural Negotiation Training, Coaching, Mentoring and Consulting, please feel free to contact Dr. Daniele Trevisani.