Empathic listening

Empathic listening in standard NVC is in a sense the reverse process of self-expression. You listen while the other person expresses their observations, feelings, needs and requests. In theory. In an NVC training, or with another NVC speaker, maybe! But of course in the real world, almost nobody speaks NVC, so the 4 components are likely to be hidden or entangled. So what we actually do is to guess and to offer prompts to the other person in order to help them connect with the four components themselves.

Just as with self-expression, there is a standard format for receiving another person empathically, which is very helpful for training ourselves to learn this valuable skill. You may want to use parts of it in real life, too!

When you hear / see / remember….”                     (Observation)

..do you feel”                                                          (Feelings)

..because.. (each feeling connected with a need)

..you need / would like / would have liked?”     (Needs)

Right now, would you like me to...?”                      (Request)

Standard NVC restricts the request to something the listener can do there and then for the speaker. A more general format is:
What would you like to ask (of yourself or others)?

In NbC, I may ask, “What would you like to do about this?” (which could include making a request of someone, but is not limited to that).

Of course, empathic listening is a lot more than following the basic NVC formula. This formula is intended really for training our own responses, initially in workshops and practice sessions. Giving empathy is ultimately about being present with another person, in whatever state they are. The formula is there to facilitate the process of coming into connection with the feelings and needs, and to support us as listeners not to slide into other responses such as sympathizing and educating. More about that here.

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