My wife says I never listen to her –; At least that’s what I think she said…; Want a sure fire way to improve your life and the lives of those you love?; Learn to Listen.; Reading and Writing and Rith-ma-tic are all taught in school – but what about Listening?; By learning to listen, we can dramatically improve our relationships. We become wiser, more knowledgeable, more understanding, and self-aware by learning to listen with empathy.; As a rule of thumb, communication is:; We take listening for granted – like breathing. Effective listening is a learned skill that takes resolve, dedication, practice, and patience.; There are five types of listening.; Empathy means; Em – in; Pathy – suffering; To be “in suffering” with another. Empathic listening requires that we listen with our eyes and heart. This requires that we are other directed, non-defensive and open minded.; Empathy and sympathy are different.; Sympathy requires judgment and to feel sadness for another. Empathy means to become one with in their suffering – to walk in ones shoes.; Steven Covey in his bestselling book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, says that effective listening skills are necessary for success. He calls this habit, “Seek 1st to understand, then to be understood”. Successful people ask to be heard only after fully listening and understanding the other party.; Scott Peck in his best seller, “The Road less Traveled”, defines love as the willingness to extend one’s own ego boundaries to nurture the spiritual growth of another. This is what effective listening requires us to do.; Empathic listening is the greatest gift we can offer another. When we listen fully, with all our faculties – our ears, our eyes, our heart and our spirit- we hear what isn’t said as well as what is. We consciously make an effort to walk in the shoes of the one being listened to. We reserve judgment and refrain from probing, evaluating, advising, or interpreting while listening.; We are different from others in our experience, knowledge, and attitudes and often misinterpret another person’s message while under the illusion that a common understanding has been achieved. Disagreements and arguments begin when we assume that others listen and speak with the same perceptions with which we listen and speak.; Empathic listening takes focused energy, undivided attention, an open mind, and an unbiased heart. It is eye contact, a hand placed gently upon an arm- neither analyzing nor racking your brain for labels, diagnoses, or remedies before the person is done relating their story.; As we listen, the speaker begins to feel important – like they matter. This validates the person sharing and allows them to begin to open up. As an atmosphere of safety comforts them, they feel safe enough to say what needs to be said- to express what feelings need to be expressed. Soon, like an onion they begin to unfold. Off comes the flaky outer shell and then layer after layer peels off as we uncover the sensitive opaque center – the heart of the person where the truth lies.; Effective listening can foster healing, create opportunity, nurture relationships, and open doors to deeper and more intimate relationships than we ever thought possible. In our technical world of today, we are missing the valuable benefits of communication.; Next time a loved one has a problem, offer to listen. You will give them freedom, healing and in return you will feel better, know more and love deeper than you ever thought possible.; Note: My focus on listening began in the cemetery and funeral industry where I sought to help others during the various stages of grief. The most valuable tool I found was the art of listening. As I learned to listen empathically, I watched as grieving survivors experienced freedom and expression for their pain. Often no one wants to talk to a grieving friend or family member after a death occurs. They tend to repeat themselves and talk incessantly about the deceased. When they are afforded the opportunity to be deeply listened and attended to, their healing evolves naturally and they begin to heal more rapidly. Learning to understand our human need to be listened to has been one of the most rewarding benefits of my years in death care.