Empathic listening is a form of communication that encompasses the use of structured listening/questioning techniques and the adoption by the listener of an empathetic posture. Empathic listening is an essential feature of the client-therapist interaction established in therapeutic contexts, as it promotes the construction of a collaborative relationship based on trust, understanding, and acceptance. Through empathic listening, the therapist processes the information being transmitted, connects with the underlying feelings and emotions of the speaker, interprets the message, and provides an appropriate response.
There are multiple ways through which the listener can engage in empathic listening. Verbal ways of showing empathy include recognizing difficult emotions the other person might be experiencing, synthesizing information, and asking pertinent questions that indicate attentiveness, reflection, and interest in the other person’s experience. Expressing empathy through non-verbal cues is equally important, as body language must be congruent with the verbalized empathic message. Maintaining eye contact, nodding or showing other signs of acknowledgment, assuming a kind facial expression, and using a calm tone of voice constitute non-verbal behaviors that transmit empathy.