Empathy: The Art of Listening

by dj2016 |


How many times has this happened to you? You come home and can see that your partner is stressed out and unhappy.

You ask what’s wrong and s/he tells you about something crappy going on at work or with friends. Being the good partner that you are you offer your advice to your beloved only to have him or her snap “I don’t need your advice, I just need you to freaking listen to me!!”.

Even the best intentioned support can sometimes go awry. But how are you supposed to know what kind of support is going to make your partner feel the care that you’re honestly trying to offer?

I’m going to quickly provide two lists for you. The first provides examples of well intentioned types of support that often backfire  (“Empathy Blockers”) and the second list gives some tried and true suggestions that will make your partner feel heard and supported (“Empathy Superchargers”).

Empathy Blockers

One Upping – “I’m sorry you had such a bad day. I can totally relate cause something similar once happened to me. Let me tell you about it…”

Advising/Fixing –“Maybe you should ______”

Educating – “Let me tell you about a great book you should read”

Analyzing – “You know, this is a pattern of yours”

Discounting – “Well, at least you have a job. You should be grateful for that at least”

Empathy Superchargers

“I hear you” – Said with empathy meets a person’s need to be understood.

“Tell me more” – Shows that you’re truly interested which gets translated into you really care.

“Wow” – Said with sincerity shows that you really understand just how serious this feels to the other.

“How can I best help you? Do you need me to listen or do more?” – The simplest and most effective approach is to simply ask this question and if the person asks you to just listen use the other three tips to demonstrate that you get it.


To learn of other ways to break destructive cycles and reconnect with one another please contact me at 240-485-6053 or DrJoe@DrJoeJames.com.  My over 25 years of experience can help you find new and more constructive ways of communicating and connecting.


Comments are closed.