How much empathy do you naturally have for other people? Do you use this powerful concept to connect with people? See, using empathy in communication makes it easier to tackle topics such as racism and gender-based violence. This approach can calm down violently prone people or make clients respond positively to your team. So, how do you practice empathic communication?
In this article, I will share the 3 ways to use empathy in communication and how this affects other people. Sounds interesting? Let’s get started.
Understanding Empathic Communication
Empathy refers to our ability to understand and share other people’s feelings. It entails putting yourself in their shoes and looking at the situation at hand from their point of view. Unlike sympathy that divides people, communicating with empathy makes it easy to connect with what others are experiencing at that moment.
Does Communicating with Empathy Make Any Difference?
Yes, empathic communication shapes your interaction with other people as follows:
#1: You Connect Better You with Your Audience
Empathic communication makes us listen to others to understand their perspective. In turn, your audience knows you hear their point of view and respect it. It is this reciprocation that creates an emotional connection with the audience.
#2: It Portrays Compassion in Your Communication
Suppose you are a call center representative, assisting customers with difficulties using certain products. A caller can tell from your tone or choice of words if you care about them or are simply doing your job. Yet, when you empathize, your show of compassion helps you connect to the other person.
#3: Be Mindful of Your Listeners
Empathic communication forces us to make a careful choice of words when interacting with others. You aim to tailor the message to meet the listener at their perspective. Mindful communication makes every person you interact with feel unique.
It works wonders especially when you deal with lots of clients throughout the day. Each client gets the impression that they are the first ones and that you are eager to know and help them with their orders.
How to Practice Empathic Communication
Are your interactions with family, friends, or audience robotic? If so, here are empathic communication ideas you can practice to connect better:
#1: Paraphrasing – Check for Understanding
Paraphrasing refers to using your own words to repeat what the other person is saying. It forces you to think about what the other person is telling you. And, when in a group set up, paraphrasing translates words, making more people understand the topic at hand.
Besides, the person talking to you is sure you get them and are not thinking about what you want to say next or a similar situation you’ve had in the past.
To practice paraphrasing:
- Use your own words to explain what the other person is sharing or feeling.
- Describe their experiences without injecting your assumptions or beliefs.
- Start your sentences with such phrases as, “I believe what you mean to say is………………”
- Use questions to paraphrase. For example, say, “In other words, you’re saying that………….?”
- Retain the focus on the other person. For example, if someone says, “Working out during the day wears me out. “Don’t paraphrase as, “We probably all get tired when working out during the day, right?”
- Avoid a judgmental tone in your paraphrases.
Paraphrasing gives the other person a chance to clarify if you understand them or not. Hence, let them restate their position once again where necessary. After all, paraphrasing emphasizes that the discussion is about the other person, not you.
#2: Mirroring – Reflecting What the Speaker Says
Mirroring refers to reflecting the verbal or non-verbal messages as they are from the other person. Here, you aim at reflecting the emotion behind the information. That way, the speaker knows that you understand how they feel.
Unlike paraphrasing, mirroring encourages the other person to open up some more. For example, when you enter a conflict resolution meeting where none of the parties is willing to listen to the other, begin by mirroring their non-verbal gestures. It could be sitting back with hands folded.
As you mimic their doing, switch to a lively posture. The participants begin to mirror your actions without even knowing it. In no time, both parties are on talking terms and discussing how to resolve the crisis.
Mirroring works best when the other person is sharing about a jittery experience in their lives. When they start hesitating, mirroring helps the other person know that it is okay and they can continue to share.
Practice verbal and nonverbal mirroring techniques in communication by:
- Wearing proper attire for your audience. For example, go casual when talking to a group of students. Switch to a professional outfit when going for a board meeting with chief executives.
- Sit, stand, or walk side by side with the other person. For example, get down and sit with a patient who is in distress. Or get playful when interacting with kids at a playground.
- Match the speaker’s pace and volume.
As you use this empathic communication technique, be careful not to overuse it. Too much mirroring can interfere with the speaker’s thought process.
#3: Supportive Body language
Finally, use eye contact and nodding to indicate your full attention to the speaker. These two techniques work best when you are standing or seated shoulder-to-shoulder with the speaker. Still, avoid staring at the person, lest it makes them feel uncomfortable. Use supportive body language as follows:
- Look for an appropriate seat or standing position that keeps you shoulder-to-shoulder with the speaker.
- Combine eye contact and triple nods to demonstrate your interest in the other person. Your eye contact should neither be too little (looks tentative), or too much (looks creepy). Also let the other person speak three to four times longer.
If you have a hard time connecting with people in a meaningful way, try using empathic communication. Communicating with empathy goes beyond that introductory phase in a relationship. It makes us attuned to the content, intention, feeling, and emotion behind the delivery of the message. Paraphrasing, mirroring, and using supportive body language are conscious empathic communication techniques to validate the person’s feelings and listen in a non-judgmental way.