Listen with the whole body; make eye contact with the intention of really seeing and connecting with the speaker; and offer connecting gestures without interrupting the speaker to share your own comments or stories. Simple—but not always easy to do when we’re distracted, busy, or stressed out ourselves. This approach to empathic listening can be a powerful gift to the person who is talking, because it encourages more openness and sharing at deeper conversational levels. It helps us stay grounded in the “here and now” moment, and more fully atunetuned with another person sharing his or her experience with us.
This type of active listening is a positive impact that “ripples” through the audience. It shows how one small action can have a big influence on the learning environment and receptivity of the audience to your message. As a speaker you can initiate a positive feeling from the audience that can have a virus type effective. Being pro-active with positive gestures can trigger and engage audience members brain receptors like oxytocin in audience members.
When we have the intention to experience and offer empathy, we can make choices—even small ones, like how we make non-verbal expression of contact can lead to audience members authentic experience of caring and empathy from the speaker.
A Kogan, LR Saslow, EA Impett, C Oveis, D Keltner, S Rodrigues Saturn. Thin-slicing study of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and the evaluation and expression of the prosocial disposition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1112658108.