"If you want to interact effectively with me, to influence me - your spouse, your child, your neighbor, your boss, your coworker, your friend - you first need to understand me. And you can't do that with technique alone. If I sense you're using some technique, I sense duplicity, manipulation. I wonder why you're doing it, what your motives are. And I don't feel safe enough to open myself up to you." (Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p 238)
"When another person speaks, we're usually 'listening' at one of four levels. We may be ignoring another person, not really listening at all. We may practice pretending. 'Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.' We may practice selective listening, hearing only certain parts on the conversation. We often do this when we are listening to the constant chatter of a preschool child. Or we may even practice attentive listening, paying attention and focusing energy on the words are being said. But very few of us ever practice the fifth level, the highest form of listening, empathetic listening.
When I say empathetic listening, I mean listening with the intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It's a completely different paradigm.
Empathetic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand how they feel.
Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is a form of agreement, a form of judgement. And it is sometimes the more appropriate emotion and response. But people often feed on sympathy. It makes them dependent. The Essenes of empathetic listening is not that you agree with someone; it's that you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as we'll as intellectually."