Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
The Benefits of Empathetic and Reflective Listening

The Benefits of Empathetic and Reflective Listening

the-benefits-of-empathetic-and-reflective-listening- image0Dr. Robert Bob Hipps was with us on Monday, April 8. He spoke to several different audiences regarding patient satisfaction.  As a physician, Hipps brings a unique perspective from the Press Ganey Consulting Group. His nearly 20 years of experience in health care, including work in academic centers, community hospitals and mental health centers, as well as the consulting and the pharmaceutical industries, gives him an informed perspective on health care.

Listening to him talk today to a group of physicians, I was most impressed with what he said about listening.  Listening is the No. 1 factor that influences how patients rate our communication skills. And, of course, it is not just patients; this applies to all interpersonal communication.

Different speakers call the concept Hipps mentioned by different names (empathic listening, active listening or reflective listening), but it is basically entails listening to understand what the other person is saying. The reflective listener tries to respond to feelings, not just content. Feelings emerge in the emotional tone that the speaker expresses, like anger, disappointment, discouragement, fear, joy, elation, or surprise.  Reflective listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding and trust. It is an essential skill as it enables the listener to receive and accurately interpret the speaker's message, and then provide an appropriate response. The response is an integral part of the listening process.

Among its benefits, empathic listening:
  • Builds trust and respect
  • Enables participants to express emotions
  • Reduces tension
  • Encourages the surfacing of information
  • Creates a safe environment conducive to collaborative problem solving

Try reflective listening.  I know I need to do more of it.  I struggle to be sure I listen more than talk. I think once you see it really is a good, solid approach to dealing with others, you will be convinced.