How to Be More Empathic and Be a Better Communicator

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Good and effective communication can be very hard and can need a lot of practice for someone to be good at it.  There are a few simple things that you can do to be a better communicator.  For example, using “I” statements and stating how you think, feel, want, etc rather than using “You” statements.  Another important aspect of being a good communicator is to be a good listener.  It seems simple, but you may find yourself or someone else cutting you off when you speak and listening to everything you need to say or misinterpreting what you said because they were not fully listening.

One of the most important tools that I try to teach to my clients to be a good communicator, it to validate the person’s feelings and empathize with what they are going through.  But how do we do that?  Validating a person’s feelings is the easier one.  You simply acknowledge what the other person said and reflect it back to them so that they know you are listening.  You can also say something like “I can understand why you feel that way” to validate the person’s feelings.

Empathy can be a little bit trickier.  A big mistake that people make is to say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.”  The problem with this statement, is that you can only be sorry for how you might have contributed to how the person is feeling and it avoids responsibility for your role in the situation.  So instead, you could say something like, “I’m sorry that I made you feel that way. How can I make it better?”  Even if you may feel as though you have done nothing wrong, it is still your problem because the other person feels as though you made them feel a certain way (mad, sad, guilty, etc)

If in fact, you had nothing to do with the other person’s problem, for example you work at a store and are not the employee that made the original mistake, yet you are the one left to talk to the customer and take care of it.  In that situation, you can say something like, “I can tell that you are frustrated, let me see what I can do to fix this.”  The simple sentence validates the persons feelings and can help to de-escalate them since you are offering to solve their problem regardless if their feeling is entirely justified.

I always tell my clients, communication is at the cornerstone of any relationship, therefore, it is REALLY important to be an effective communicator.

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Kimberly Wagner, Psy.D. PSY 25460
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April 2024
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