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The Importance of Empathetic Listening 

We’re big fans of empathetic listening for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s a gift you give someone. People rarely listen fully when another is speaking. We tend to spend our listening time formulating our response, and because of that, we don’t fully engage.

Outside of being kind, there’s a strategic reason we systematically and consciously listen empathetically. To tap into the wealth of knowledge from another person, be that a candidate, client, spouse, child, or friend. First, let’s teach you how to do it, then we’ll discuss practical use cases.

Typically, this exercise is going to start with you asking a question:

  • How was your day?
  • What’s challenging in your hiring process?
  • What’s causing you to look outside at another opportunity?

From the point you ask the question, there are a few things you CANNOT do:

  • Don’t ask any clarifying questions.
  • Don’t offer any opinions.
  • Don’t offer any advice.
  • Don’t share your own similar experience.

That may seem like a short list, but you’ll be shocked how hard this is to implement. Sometimes, i feel like maybe the person I’m talking to can see little trickles of blood running down my cheek from biting my tongue so hard (not really, but you get the idea!)

Here’s what you’re going to do instead. Listen closely to what the person is sharing, offer a starting empathic phrase, and then name the emotion you think they are feeling. By doing this, we essentially give the person permission to keep talking. And that’s where the gold is. 

Let’s start with the list of phrases to begin your observation:

  • That sounds so…
  • You must have felt so…
  • I can hear the X you must have been feeling
  • I can only imagine how X that was for you.
  • What you went through must have made you feel…
  • It sounds like that experience left you feeling…
  • I can sense you are feeling X right now.
  • It appears as if this experience is leaving you feeling…

You’ll notice those all follow the same path, giving you the starting point to name the emotion. Naming the emotion might feel like the easy part, but there are nuances to word choice, and the more accurate you are when you name the emotion, the more rapport you are developing.

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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