What is Empathic Listening?
Empathic listening, sometimes called reflexive listening or active listening, is a way of listening and responding to someone in a way that promotes greater understanding and trust. The ability to listen with empathy is what sets apart great communicators from average, or even good, ones. The idea of empathic listening is to put yourself into the speaker's place and attempt to understand not only what they are saying, but also why they are saying it. In order to do this, the listener must listen with an open mind, and be actively engaged in the conversation, while being sure not to provide any judgement or injecting their own thoughts into the conversation.
Most conversations are a two-way interaction. One person speaks while the other listens, and then the other person processes what he heard, and then responds. In effect, the participants take turns sharing information, feelings or ideas. In empathic listening, only one side is providing ideas and thoughts, while the other only listens. But just because one party is only listening, that doesn't mean that they are any less engaged in the process. In order to actively listen, you must show to the speaker that you are paying attention and that you understand. The way to do this is by repeating what you hear, without attempting to inject anything of yourself into the statements.
Without interrupting, and only after normal amounts of time, you should attempt to restate back to the speaker what you heard. You need to do this without changing the subject, moving the topic in a new direction, and without giving advice or attempting to help "solve" their problem or worse, dismissing their problem as small or insignificant. Restating what you are hearing, exactly as you are hearing it, back to the speaker shows that you are attentive, that you care, and that you are understanding what the speaker is trying to say.