Listening Without Empathy: Not Emotionally Connected

Imagine telling someone a story and not really getting a response. Or worse, imagine thinking you’re getting a real answer when the person is actually completely emotionally disconnected from what you’re saying. This is what listening without empathy is all about.
Listening without empathy: not emotionally connected

Listening without empathy is like watching without seeing. It’s like nodding your head, when your mind is completely disconnected from what’s going on around you. It is being there, but not really being there.

Communication and empathic listening are essential to building strong and meaningful relationships. They allow you to get in touch with the feelings of others.

Just a few months ago, Paul Bloom, a psychologist and cognitive scientist at Yale University, made some controversial comments about empathy. He says there is nothing positive about it.

According to Paul Bloom, fakeness often hides behind empathy. For example, someone can pretend to empathize with what another person is feeling, without really caring.

In short, Bloom refers to the fact that everyone can put themselves in someone else’s shoes in one way or another. However, that doesn’t mean he really cares about what the other person is going through. This is basically what listening without empathy is.

According to Bloom, there is therefore no point in showing empathy if we do not have a proactive attitude. To be truly empathetic, we need to be authentically aware of the person in front of us and their story.

In addition, as Bloom points out, there are also people who seem empathetic but do nothing to help others. They only show empathy to feel good about themselves.

So it is not enough to just be there, to feel and to show that we understand the reality of the other. We have to actively manifest that feeling, that connection we make with the other.

Listening without empathy

People tend to ritualize their daily interactions so much that at some point they become completely oblivious to the lack of emotional connection in their relationships with others.

A very typical example are those fathers and mothers who respond almost automatically to their children when they explain something to them. At some point we get to a point where sentences like “Yes, your drawing is beautiful” and “Really?”

That’s interesting’ become meaningless because we’ve repeated them so many times. Some parents think their kids don’t realize they’re just answering quickly so they can get back to what they were doing. In reality, however, children do notice this.

This does not mean that these parents do not love their children with all their hearts. It means that their busy lives are interfering with their relationships. Parents who have a hectic schedule are always thinking about their responsibilities and usually listen without empathy.

Little boy looks down sadly

Non-empathic responses hinder emotional connection

We’ve all had a conversation with someone who wasn’t quite there in their head. Sometimes we need a real conversation with someone, but we have someone in front of us who just nods and doesn’t really listen. It’s like there’s no emotional connection. It’s just an empty conversation.

Other times, people give us answers that don’t help at all. Here are some examples of these types of reactions:

  • Advisory response: what you need to do is…
  • Empathetic personal response: you’re exaggerating, there’s nothing wrong with that!
  • Corrective Response: I think you are wrong.
  • Interrogative response: But why did you think/do/say that?
  • Avoidant Response: I understand your concern, but I can’t help you right now because…

As you can see, these types of responses are clear examples of listening without empathy. These kinds of reactions make us feel bad about ourselves.

How to develop genuine empathy and an active attitude

We can all become empathetic. Thus conducted Dr. Anthony David of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience in London conducted a study that showed it is possible to measure empathy.

This has enabled the world to realize that everyone is capable of empathy. However, people also suffer from a lack of willpower to improve their social skills. This means we are empathetic, but not using it as effectively as we should.

Listening without empathy has therefore become normal. We think of ourselves as comprehensive, patient, and caring, when in reality we don’t empathize with others at all.

To improve, it is important to keep the following keys in mind:

Suppose you have a fight

Using empathy effectively

  • To develop empathy, we must learn to be truly present without haste or excuses.
  • Eye contact is key. We must look the other person in the eye without judging him and learn to convey affection and understanding with our gaze.
  • We must learn to respond. Criticism, judgment, or phrases like “If I were you, I would do this” or “You should have acted differently” are not helpful at all.
  • Above all, however, empathy must be proactive. Those who say they understand but do nothing to help others are only giving false hope. Telling someone that they are valuable and then neglecting them can really hurt them.

Finally, we should not assume that we are experts in this field. There is always something to learn and improve. Little by little we can improve our empathy and this can lead to better, more genuine relationships.

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