Resources for Creating a Safer, Saner, More Loving World

Learning to Listen with Empathy Deepens Love

Couple with headphones

Is technology helping couples hear everything except each other?

by Seth Eisenberg

Few gifts are more precious than listening to another person with empathy, especially during times of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. As families across the world gather in celebration and reflection during this holiday season, consider how often you really listen to another person; not just to their words, waiting for a chance to insert your own thoughts, experiences, and perspective, but to the meaning and intention beneath the words?

Listening with empathy begins with being fully present to another person, surrendering – at least momentarily — your own ego, including the temptation to interject, judge and give advice that isn’t invited. It’s also about separating ourselves from distractions – not just television, iPods, cell phones, text messaging, but also from the wanderings of our own thoughts and prejudices that can get in the way of truly hearing another person. It’s a commitment to listen to understand another person’s feelings and experiences.

Emptying the Emotional Jug is one of the most powerful exercises taught in PAIRS Essentials skills classes that have helped thousands of couples create and sustain relationships that are an ongoing source of love, pleasure and fulfillment. It offers the opportunity to experience a depth of connection and sharing beyond what most couples, friends, and families typically experience.

The exercise begins with being fully present to each other and agreeing that the Listener will simply listen with empathy, promising not to judge, comment, or react to anything the Speaker shares beyond showing empathy and validation for the experience of the Speaker. The Speaker should recognize that this is not an opportunity to attack or blame the Listener. PAIRS classes offer other tools and exercises for confiding and releasing emotional energy when two people want to address issues within their relationship with each other. This exercise is for confiding about issues that aren’t about the Listener.

Ideally, when this exercise is done in person, the Speaker and Listener should sit together facing each other in a Leveling Position (where you can have natural eye, knee and hand contact). It’s best to do this privately so that neither the Speaker nor Listener will be influenced by other people during the exercise. When appropriate, PAIRS encourages participants to hold hands during the exercise.

The exercise has a beginning and an end. Once begun, it’s important to complete the exercise. Generally, this takes 15 to 30 minutes, although it can be shorter or much longer. If there are time constraints, establish those before beginning.

Emptying the Emotional Jug can also be a very powerful experience to help children confide the range of their emotions. When an adult is doing the exercise with a child, the adult should always be the Listener.

The Listener starts by asking the Speaker:

“What are you MAD or ANGRY about?”

This is an invitation for the Speaker to look deep inside to see and feel what’s in their gut that’s connected to feelings of ANGER and to express those feelings in words. It’s not a speech, lecture or conversation, but a chance to connect with the feelings that are inside and express them in words.

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you MAD about?” The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing and asks, “What else are you MAD about?”

“Thank you. What else are you MAD about?” [Depending on time constraints and the depth of confiding, the Listener can continue to ask or can move on to the next step.]

When the Speaker indicates they’ve expressed everything they’re MAD about [or you’ve used about a quarter of the time you’ve agreed upon], the Listener says, “Thank you. If you were MAD about anything else, what would it be?”

This step is very important, as the deepest feelings sometimes come out last.

Again, the Listen expresses appreciation, “Thank you,” and then asks:

“What are you SAD about?”

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you SAD about?”

The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing [by saying “thank you” or through a gesture such as an embrace] and asks what else?

“Thank you. What else are you SAD about?”

When the Speaker indicates they’ve expressed everything they’re SAD about, the Listener says, “Thank you. If you were SAD about anything else, what would it be?”

Again, the Listen expresses appreciation, “Thank you,” and then asks:

“What are you SCARED or WORRIED about?”

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you SCARED about?”

The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing and asks what else?

“Thank you. What else are you SCARED about?”

When the Speaker indicates they’ve expressed everything they’re SCARED about, the Listener says, “Thank you. If you were SCARED about anything else, what would it be?”

Again, the Listen expresses appreciation, “Thank you,” and then asks,

“What are you GLAD about?”

After the Speaker has shared, the Listener says, “Thank you. What else are you GLAD about?”

The Speaker continues to look inside and share whatever is there.

Again, after the Speaker shares, the Listener continues to express appreciation to the Speaker for sharing and asks what else?

“Thank you. What else are you GLAD about?”

When the Speaker indicates they’ve sufficiently expressed what they’re GLAD about, the Listener says,

“Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like to share that you’re GLAD about?”

Conclude with a hug or other sign of appreciation and affection, both for the gift the Speaker offered through their trust in confiding and the gift of truly listening with empathy.

If the Speaker wants to have a further conversation after the exercise about anything shared or experienced, respect the Speaker’s right to make that decision. If not, respect the privacy of the Speaker’s shared experiences and right not to talk about it further. As people learn through experiences that it’s safe to share their feelings with others, you’ll likely discover a new depth of connection, compassion and understanding.

Seth Eisenberg is President/CEO of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Weston, Florida, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.

Tagged as: , , , ,

Categorised in: Education, Health, Lifestyle/Leisure, News

Copyright Notice

Copyright © FatherhoodChannel.com, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from FatherhoodChannel.com is strictly prohibited. Excerpts up to 500 words and links may be freely used by educational and nonprofit organizations provided that full and clear attribution is given to the article's author and FatherhoodChannel.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Please address permission requests to editor@fatherhoodchannel.com.
April 2010
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930