coping skills for mental health

Coping skills for mental health: How to listen with empathy

Ever feel like no one really listens to you? Or maybe you're not sure how to be there for others? 

Good listening isn't just about hearing words—it's a crucial coping skill for mental health that can help you connect with yourself and others on a deeper level. 

So, in this article, we'll dive into what it means to listen with empathy and how this can improve your mental health and relationships.

What does it mean to listen with empathy?

Listening with empathy means being fully present with someone, understanding their feelings, and showing that you care. It's about more than just nodding your head; it's about connecting emotionally and mentally. Whether you're listening to a friend or tuning into your own thoughts, empathetic listening is a key coping skill for mental health.

The benefits of empathetic listening

There are three major benefits of empathetic listening: 

It strengthens your relationships. 

When you listen empathetically, you build stronger, more meaningful relationships. People feel valued and understood, which fosters trust and intimacy. Imagine a friend sharing their struggles with you and knowing that you genuinely care—it makes all the difference, right? The same goes for your internal dialogue. Listening to your own needs and emotions can help you build a healthier relationship with yourself.

It boosts your mental health. 

Empathetic listening can significantly improve your mental health. It helps reduce stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. When you feel heard and understood, your emotional burdens become lighter. Additionally, by practicing empathetic listening with yourself, you can better understand and manage your emotions, leading to improved mental well-being.

It enhances your problem-solving skills.

When you listen with empathy, you gain a deeper understanding of the situation. This comprehensive view allows you to find more effective solutions to problems. Whether you're helping a friend navigate a tough time or figuring out your own challenges, empathetic listening equips you with the insights needed for better decision-making.

How to practice empathetic listening

Want to start practicing empathetic listening? Here are four tips: 

1. Be present

Being present means giving your full attention to the speaker, whether that's someone else or yourself. Put away distractions, make eye contact, and focus on the conversation. 

Alternatively, when you're alone, practice mindfulness to tune into your own thoughts and feelings without judgment.

2. Validate feelings

Validation is about acknowledging and accepting someone's feelings. So simple phrases like "That sounds really tough" or "I understand why you feel that way" can make a big difference. 

When you’re listening to yourself, practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that it's okay to feel what you're feeling.

3. Ask open-ended questions

Open-ended questions encourage deeper conversation and show that you're genuinely interested. Questions like "How did that make you feel?" or "What do you think would help?" can open up the dialogue. 

When reflecting on your experiences, ask similar questions to gain insight into your emotions and needs.

4. Reflect and summarize

Reflecting and summarizing what you've heard shows that you're actively listening and understanding. Phrases like "So what you're saying is..." or "It sounds like you feel..." can help clarify and validate the speaker's experience. 

You can also use this technique by journaling your thoughts and reflecting on what you've written.

Start embracing empathetic listening today

As you can see, empathetic listening is a powerful coping skill for mental health. It can enhance your relationships, improve your emotional well-being, and make you a more effective problem-solver. By being present, validating the speaker’s feelings (including your own!), asking open-ended questions, and reflecting, you can become a better listener and build stronger connections with yourself and others.

Ready to enhance your empathetic listening skills and boost your mental health? The Balance app offers guided meditations and exercises designed to help you become more mindful and empathetic. What’s more? It’s completely free for your entire first year. So download the Balance app today and start your journey towards better mental health and stronger relationships—you’ve got nothing to lose!

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