"Stephen Richards Covey (October 24, 1932 –
July 16, 2012) was an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote
speaker. His most popular book was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective
His other books include First Things First, Principle-Centered
Leadership, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, The 8th Habit,
and The Leader In Me — How Schools and Parents Around the World Are
Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time. He was a professor at the Jon M.
Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University at the time of his
"When I say empathic listening, I am not referring to the
techniques of "active" listening or "reflective" listening, which basically
involve mimicking what another person says. That kind of listening is
skill-based, truncated from character and relationships, and often insults
those "listened" to in such a way. It is also essentially autobiographical. If
you practice those techniques, you may not project your autobiography in the
actual interaction, but your motive in listening is autobiographical. You
listen with reflective skills, but you listen with intent to reply, to
control, to manipulate.
When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I
mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It's an entirely
different paradigm. Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another
person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the
way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they
In empathic listening, you listen with your ears, but you also,
and more importantly, listen with your eyes and with your heart. You listen
for feeling, for meaning. You listen for behavior. You use your right brain as
well as your left. You sense, you intuit, you feel....
takes time, but it doesn't take anywhere near as much time as it takes to back
up and correct misunderstandings when you're already miles down the road; to
redo; to live with unexpressed and unsolved problems; to deal with the results
of not giving people psychological air."
Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to
work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts,
feelings, motives and interpretation, you're dealing with the reality inside
another person's head and heart. You're listening to understand. You're
focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul."
"The more authentic you become, the more genuine in your
expression, particularly regarding personal experiences and even self-doubts,
the more people can relate to your expression and the safer it makes them feel
to express themselves. That expression, in turn, feeds on the other person's
spirit, and genuine creative empathy takes place, producing new insights and
learnings and a sense of excitement and adventure that keeps the process
going." Stephen Covey
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen
with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak.
They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their
autobiography into other people's lives." Stephen Covey
"Seek to understand rather than be understood". Stephen Covey
"Empathy takes time, and efficiency is for things, not people." Stephen
"When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person
psychological air" Stephen Covey
The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will
appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them. To touch
the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground. Stephen R.
I may be ineffective in my interactions with my work associates,
my spouse, or my children because I constantly tell them what I think,
but I never really listen to them. Unless I search out correct
of human interaction, I may not even know I need to listen. Even if I
do know that in order to interact effectively with others I really need
to listen to them, I may not have the skill. I may not know how
to really listen deeply to another human being. But knowing I need
to listen and knowing how to listen is not enough. Unless I want
to listen, unless I have the desire, it won't be a habit in my life.
Stephen R. Covey