Dispute Mediation: Listening with Empathy

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DISPUTE MEDIATION: Part Three – What are the benefits of Empathic Listening during the mediation process?

Welcome! This is the third and final blog series about Empathic Listening.  The previous two blogs gave a general overview of skills and then a brief application of those skills.  With this final blog, I will outline benefits of empathic listening.  Benefits for you during a dispute mediation. Benefits to enhance your relationships in general.  As the above quote suggests.  Most people during difficult conversations spend time thinking about how they will respond.  Instead, people should be listening to what the other person is trying to tell them.

Remember, listening with empathy means that you want to “check up” on what you are hearing.  You want to check that you are understanding what is actually being said.  You are checking to confirm the point of view of the other person.  You do this by: paraphrasing, re-stating, clarifying or just being curious about what the other person is saying.  To borrow from Steven Covey; you want to “listen with your heart.”  

Why should I listen with empathy?

I think the question here is: What’s in it for me?  What’s the benefit?  Without being self-centered – these are good questions.  There are lots of “pay-offs” for improving your listening skills.  Especially when you find yourself in conflict.

  • Reduced misunderstandings:  Misunderstanding often leads to more conflict.  Think about it.  How many times have you become angry because you felt misunderstood?  What happens to the communication level?
  • Increased respect:  It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable!  It requires both parties to listen for understanding…….not for blaming.  It is very difficult for people to talk openly when they feel under attack.  When under attack people will start to defend.  When attacking and defending……..what’s happening to the issue(s)?…..to the understanding?………to the communication?
  • Demonstrated trust: Rather than just going through the motions – listening with the intent to understand demonstrates a willingness to trust.  Trying to understand shows that you are willing to trust and to be trusted. It may be difficult at first…….but…….once a level of trusting and trustworthiness is established, communication will increase.

So, what’s my point?

So, what’s the point of this series?  Empathic listening can be a valuable skill for those involved in a dispute mediation.  It can be valuable and helpful tool to reach a resolution to disputes.  Developing the skill to listen with empathy can help improve any relationship; family, personal or professional.  It only take time, knowledge and commitment.

Remember; when people find themselves in conflict, the usual response is to blame or to defend.  Preferring to listen with the intent to respond.  Next time you are faced with a conflict try to listen to understand.  Listen to understand the other point of view.  Listen to hear their “story”.   It really is a question of respect.  When someone feels respected and listened to….what happens to the conflict may surprise you!

Miles

I am a mediator in Medicine Hat.  Please contact me at 403-952-8752, or at mtmediate@gmail.com.

6 thoughts on “Dispute Mediation: Listening with Empathy

    • Good question Mark. Good listening is a skill that needs to be learned, developed and practiced. Which takes motivation, perseverance and time.

  1. I really like the emphasis on empathy. It is such an important skill. Can you recommend other resources that would help improve empathic listening?

    • Hello Nadine: I also agree with the importance of empathy. I really found that Stephen Covey wrote well about this issue….any of his books reallly.

  2. This can be a very difficult process. Misunderstanding is often the cause of many conflicts; during which it is difficult to have respect and trust. The mediation process allows the opportunity to build understanding and restore respect and trust, opening the door to peaceful and more meaningful resolution.

    • Hello Jason; I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment on trust. From where I sit…creating and maintaining trust in a relationship can have immense value.

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