Empathetic Listening: What Is It & How To Develop It?


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Empathetic listening is the ability to listen to a person by giving focus and special attention to the words we are receiving. These days, the ability to listen attentively, comprehend, and accurately interpret information has become a vital skill. (1).

Empathetic listening a basic human ability that helps you socialize in a more optimal way. Not all of us have the ability to listen, and it is important to have, develop, or improve this ability. Therefore, in this article, we will explain to you all the advantages of having the ability to listen empathetically in order to improve your communication skills.

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  • It is a communication skill that you can learn, develop or improve.
  • Your social relations will improve considerably.
  • It will broaden your knowledge and horizons, allowing you to communicate more effectively.

What you should know about empathetic listening

Empathetic listening is a skill, like so many other soft skills, that you can learn and practice. It is worth making the effort to learn it because, after obtaining it, your ideas, reasoning, and conclusions will change. You will become a person with greater critical capacity when it comes to giving feedback or analyzing a situation and it will considerably improve your personal development. Thus, you will be able to properly relate to and learn from other people and from your own mistakes.

What is empathetic listening?

Empathetic listening is a human social skill that helps to improve our communication. It focuses and deepens the information that is being received from a person, along with other types of characteristics, such as the tone of communication, emotions and feelings that are being transmitted.

The aim is that the recipient does it empathetically, which means, in a comprehensive way, that acknowledges the other person’s reality. Therefore, empathetic listening is essential for effective communication to occur.

Why is empathetic listening important?

In today’s world of information and communication overload, empathetic listening is crucial because developing it will make you a more understanding and receptive person. As a result, it will improve your understanding of others’ feelings and perspectives during communication. In addition, you will acquire another important communication skill for your social development.

How to develop empathetic listening?

To develop it, the first important thing to understand is that listening is not the same as hearing. If you get to understand this, your perspective will change. Therefore, you must pay special attention to both verbal and non-verbal language characteristics, trying to understand the intentions and emotions of others. Now, there are certain steps that you must fulfill to develop it; these are (2):

(Source: Giuliano Lopez/ Gitnux)

Advantages of empathetic listening

Knowing how to listen generates greater empathy. There are plenty of advantages of having this ability, such as:

  • Connecting with others.
  • Improving your ideas.
  • Bringing better solutions to various problems.
  • Changing your points of view.
  • Creating better connections.

What is active listening?

Active listening is when you use verbal and non-verbal communication to understand the message a speaker is trying to convey. It involves your gestures, postures, tone of communication, and words used (4).

It can be considered as a communication strategy, with certain distinctive characteristics that allow a conversation to develop in a better way between the speaker and the listener. In this way, the three keys to knowing it better are:

Stages of active listening (Source: Giuliano Lopez/ Gitnux)

What is assertive listening?

It is the ability to listen and understand while paying special attention to the dialogue, including gestures, speed of communication, pauses, and emotions.

Put aside all your preconceptions and value judgments, and focus on empathizing by putting yourself on the speaker’s viewpoint (3).


Verbal and non-verbal communication, as already mentioned, are two very important types of communication. It is important to take them into account, as they will help you make the person you are listening to feel confident enough to express themselves. For this reason, we will give you some examples of phrases that you can use during a conversation:

  • I understand what you are telling me.
  • How can I can help you?
  • Thank you for telling and sharing with me.
  • Was there anything that bothered you?
  • It’s something you can’t change and you just have to accept it.
  • How do you feel after sharing it?
  • I am available for whatever you need.


There can be many situations and environments in which you may need to apply empathetic listening. To do this, it is important to recognize the type of dialogue you are having and the place it is taking place. On one hand, it may be that the topic and the intention of the conversation are passing and superfluous. On the other hand, it is an important conversation that requires providing feedback.

You can easily detect whether you are a passive listener and classify the quality of it. To do this, ask yourself the following questions and write them down as you answer them:

  1. Do you listen to all parties involved in the conversation?
  2. Do you make sure you understand all the points in order to move forward?
  3. Do you resolve conversations in the same way or with the same generalized response?
  4. Do you pay attention to who is speaking or to your own thoughts and ideas?
  5. Do you constantly interrupt and prevent the conversation from developing?

The answers to these questions will be enlightening. You will discover yourself and be able to detect your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to passive listening. As you practice this daily, you will gradually improve each point and become a much better listener.

Your willingness to listen must always be prepared for any situation. You must recognize the intention of the dialogue, and it is important to detect it in advance. This will inevitably determine, in the first instance, your predisposition and the fluidity of the conversation.


By committing yourself to developing empathetic listening, you can learn it in a very practical way. You don’t need to be in a professional environment to try it out, you can try it at home with your family, friends or loved ones who need a listener. If you learn to listen empathically, it will improve your understanding of others and with it, our relationships. As a consequence, we would contribute to create much more communicative and supportive relationships, empathizing much more with other people’s problems.

As you develop good empathic listening, you can advance in the process of learning this skill and delve into deeper and more complex topics, such as psychology, coaching, public speaking or neuroscience.

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1. NARANJO, María Gemma Martín. Active and empathic listening. Editorial Elearning, SL, 2018.

2. FOSSHAGE, James L. The use and impact of analyst subjectivity with empathetic and other listening/experiential perspectives. Psychoanalytic Overtures: Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2011, no 38, p. 2.

3. BERNECHE, María Eugenia. Comunicación asertiva e escucha empática para optimizar as relaciones. In Pílulas solidarias: estratexias psicolóxicas no deporte para afrontar momentos de crise. Sociedad Iberoamericana de Psicología del Deporte SIPD, 2021. p. 401-410.

4. CALDERÓN, Karen Andrea Hernández; SILVA, Anggy Karina Lesmes. Active listening as a necessary element for dialogue. Revista convicciones, 2018, vol. 5, no 9, p. 83-87.


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