The Sins of the Empath : The Listener

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Many people are poor listeners. It takes concentration and effort to listen for a sustained period of time. Many people lack the discipline and rigour that is required to be such a person, their minds wander, they are busy thinking about what they want to say, the point which they wish to make or even wondering what they are going to have for dinner. Staying on point with regard to what somebody is saying takes focus and effort.

Being a good listener is one of the traits which belongs to the empathic group of people. You are blessed with the ability to sit and exhibit considerable patience as you allow somebody to talk to you. At its simplest, you allow a person to tell you all about their plans for decorating their house. Such a topic might be regarded as mundane but not to those from the empathic group. You take an interest in what you are told and this combines with your preparedness to allow others to have their say. Your stance is that if the subject matter is important to that person, then it is important to you as well. You will not trivialise the commentary, regard the conversation as banal or consign the observations from the speaker into the file in your mind marked ‘Trivial’.

It is not the case that you will necessarily sit like some wall flower as this person talks, but you are able to regulate your responses so you do not interrupt them. Instead, you coax people to share, not so you can elicit information to use against them, but rather to aid your own understanding with a view to being able to respond in a more effective and helpful manner.

Your capacity to listen is not confined to allowing somebody to tell you what they think of the latest Tom Cruise film or how their Greek Island hopping holiday panned out. Your listening skill finds its forte when you engage in listening to people talk about their hopes, their concerns, their problems and what is causing them anguish and anxiety. You are skilled in adopting a pose which allows that person to offload about anything and everything to you. You deploy silent visual cues which demonstrate that you are paying attention and that you are processing what you are being told in order, at the appropriate time, to provide valuable feedback, observation and insight.

This segues into the fact that not only are you a brilliant listener but you also know when to speak and when to remain silent. You will not interject unnecessarily, but instead you will be able to gauge when you should speak. You can hold on to information, flag a point and store it, assimilating the steam of facts and opinions that are being spewed in your direction until there is an apt moment for you to respond.

You empathic nature as a whole combines with this ability to listen to create a safe environment wherein the speaker feels able to trust you. He or she almost has a compulsion in your presence to want to confess, spill their guts, confide and explain. You generate an environment whereby the speaker knows they can tell you what is on their mind and that you will not be judgemental. They feel assured in your presence, confidence that not only are they being listened to but they are being heard.

Indeed, the skill of being a good listener, as an empathic person, is the anti-thesis of our kind. We are generally poor listeners, save when we identify the need and only then it is because we have seen that there is a benefit which can be accrued from listening intently. More usually, the Lesser will find that his chaotic thoughts appear in a haphazard fashion and he has to release his comments as if he does not do so he might be poisoned by keeping the toxic words inside. This means that his thoughts are all about what he is saying, about to say and he is not listening to you. The Mid-Ranger appears to be listening, he can at least create the image, but he is not. He is too concerned to ensure that what he has to say will be listened to and responded to. When you are speaking he is not listening to what you have to say, he finds your words are getting in the way and, like all of our kind, all he hears is the fuel element of what is being said. If you are shouting about how annoyed you are with him, he is not hearing the content but rather enjoying the fuel being provided and thinking about what might be said next to keep this flow glowing. As for the Greater, he is contemptible of what you have to say, how can anything you say be of interest to him unless it is about him and it is providing fuel.

You may find with our kind that you realise you are repeating yourself as you see that we appear to be somewhere else. Furthermore, there will be instances where we will deny the you have told us something and our denial is adamant. You know that you told us and at the time we responded confirming what you had told us. Yet, here we are now denying that you told us what time to meet up or where to go to in order to collect a parcel. Of course there will be times where we have heard you and we then deny what you say in order to maintain control and frustrate you (usually the preserve of the Greaters) but on many occasions the Lesser or Mid-Ranger will actually not remember what was said and the denial is based on their genuine belief you have not told us something, because they were not listening and absorbing what was being said, because they had no interest in what you were saying at that time. They may have been considering what they wanted to say, who else they wanted to speak to, what they were going to do next and many other factors, which all result in a complete failure to absorb what you have said. Accordingly, the denial and a strenuous one at that, arises at a later time.

Your ability to be a great listener means that you also expect others to listen return the same courtesy to you. That is not to state that you are demanding and haughty about being listened to, far from it, you are content to allow others to speak for longer and more often than you. You do however expect that when you speak you will be listened to and our repeated failure to do this becomes a repeated source of frustration and upset for you.

The fact of being an excellent listener becomes your sin because we treat you like the sounding board, save we are not interested in hearing anything back from you. The Mid-Range of our kind and especially the Greater revel in the imposition of lengthy monologues where we espouse our views (often stolen from listening to others) for the purposes of ensuring you bask in our brilliant rhetoric. Speeches will be made from our armchairs as if we were delivering the Gettysburg Address. You will listen because that is what you do and we seize on your capacity to listen and then listen some more as a captive and appreciative audience. Your smile, your occasional nods and wide-eyed appreciation (when we deign to look at you) are confirmation of our standing and our effective grandstanding.

You are expected to listen to us dominate the table at a dinner party and nod with enthusiasm, make appreciative noises and be supportive and you will do so because as the excellent listener you feel that it is only right.

You are expected to laugh at the anecdote which we have told a hundred times before and you will dutifully do so. You believe that it is fair and right to allow us our stage and we exploit that willingness on your part to the full. Your sins manifest through allowing us to rant at you. You believe we are entitled to say our piece, no matter how vociferously and you will not interrupt, even though we can see the fear and hurt in your eyes. Your capacity for listening means that you will be regularly exposed to our vitriolic words and compelled to hear them, listen them out and respond, even though all we want is your fuel by way of response. You will become frustrated, even though your try to hide it, at our failure to listen to you, our lack of interest in your opinion and the way we interrupt you and talk over you.

We want you listening, attentive and admiring. We want you listing, hanging on our words even as we berate you. You have a deep sense of obligation to do so, feeling that we may finally make some valid point, tell you something that provides a breakthrough and gives a moment of clarity through this long-winded spiel.It never comes. It is a waterfall of words as we talk about ourselves, talk about our brilliance (greater), woes (mid-ranger) or anger (lesser). This cascading oratory and your obligation to listen begins to take its toll as you worn down by our selfishness, our narrow-mindedness and the savageness of our comments when they are directed at you.

Some suggest that to speak is to sin.

In the world of the empath, listening is worse.

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20 thoughts on “The Sins of the Empath : The Listener”

  1. What a shame, that what is such a great characteristic of the empath, is and will always be used against us. Our authenticity should be beautiful. But with your kind.. it is a double-edged sword.

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  2. I had to chuckle for a couple of reasons.

    One, I get paid to listen, though sometimes it is very hard work to do, requires discipline for sure. It is tiring for us empaths too, especially when it lacks true reciprocity. Thus, this is why counseling is a paid job. Your partner is not your counselor.

    Additionally, those of us with ADHD, lord…. listening is like doing weight lifting on a trampoline at times.

    Two, the Gettysburg Address reference almost knocked me off my chair. This is because my ex-non-narcissist(ENN), we were together for 6 years. He said to me regularly, with a laugh and warm eyes: “Indy, when you speak, it is like you wish to be listened to as if you were saying the Gettysburg Address for the first time, EVERY TIME.” and then give me a kiss and we’d both laugh. It was true. I did wish to be heard, and very deeply. We all wish to be listened to, HG.

    The hard part is to get a word in edgewise with those that like to speak in soliloquy while “pretending” it is reciprocal. I got tired of it and wasn’t having it. So, I started to communicate quite vividly nonverbally. I would hold up one finger up with raised eye brows in silence to indicate, “dude, take a breath”. Children get it. My ex narcissist just got more pissed. LOL Another one that REALLY pissed off my ex, when I was in a mood to tango, was to take my hand and motion “hurry up” with no words and a smirk on my face. hahahaha…it is a bitch move, yes. And, I have this in me too. No, this does not happen in sessions, btw. LOL

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    1. Oh yes the silent “wrap it up” gesture. Love it. Another move that used to annoy my narcissistic ex was a (mostly) stifled laugh at his latest preposterous claim (usually about me – he loved to ‘read my mind’ with hilariously off-base results).

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  3. Sometimes I wish I had never tasted that beautiful voice of Yours…. which I always long to listen to…. which resonates in my head 24hours a day….WHAT A POWER You possess! WOW!

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  4. HG, your voice makes one’s job of listening to you addicting…in fact, come to think of it, I think you listen more than you talk…wait a minute…but that doesn’t make sense…I wish you would talk more!!!

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  5. HG, nice work.
    Great Listener, yes.
    Strangers Tell me life story, yes.
    Give rapt attention to Narc, yep in the beginning.
    Hear joke/story for the 100th time, nope.
    You scream at me & I listen, nope.
    I don’t interrupt you, nope.

    Yes, it’s true that I love for people to tell me stories. Any information is like story time to me. I am a great conversationalist. I will however grow tired of hearing repeated stories. A greater narcissist I know would always call me out on talking over him and if I would say okay wrap it up let’s go, get on with it, he would get angry. He would always try to maintain composure but you could see he was seething. He would usually counter with trying to draw the conversation out longer or try to make you stay in the proximity by physically boxing you in. Or would say something like I’m not going to stand here and waste my breath on someone like you. I would gray rock and say okay. Furious.
    Mom is definitely not listening. Dad is definitely listening and everything you say will be on the table for a later date. Teaches ones how to be careful of what they say. That’s why it’s better to let other people talk and you ask the questions. Then you are not in the position of having to make a defense. I would not shirk my right to say my piece. I will debate you all day long if you would like. I did it my whole life. I am used to this chaotic behavior and in fact had to relearn how to trust enough to disclose information. I’d say I’ve said more about myself on this blog than I have to anyone except for 2 people. It’s funny how people think they know you. They know a version of you. Even you admit that HG. Different ones get different facets from me. Depending on the circumstances. My doctor tells me I am a natural born schmoozer. I laugh. It’s true. I think it is a matter of chameleon like behavior. Fit in anywhere. My Father was the same. Part of sociopathic dynamic? Probably. Still empathic, yes. Are you listening HG? Probably not.

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    1. I think my ex learned quickly that he couldn’t out-talk me; didn’t have the vocabulary or the quick-thinking. So instead he’d out-dumb me: say things so monumentally stupid that I didn’t even know where to begin with rebutting. I’m a quick study too though, so I soon learned that it wasn’t worth even trying. It wasn’t long before he had to resort to denying the definitions of words, as though the dictionary itself were a personal attack. In retrospect (and knowing what I now know about these types) I can see how he must have been trying every tool in his arsenal to get his desired reactions out of me, but I just didn’t want to play. And I am sure I learned how to opt-out of the game from opting out of my dad’s.

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  6. “…we espouse our views (often stolen from listening to others)”
    My mid-ranger says the exact lines others had said. Why do narcs do this HG? I know you clearly have your own opinions. Do you think your own opinions are not good enough? Why borrow others’ opinions? Thank you.

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  7. Hello HG, do you only listen to people when you know that you are going to need that information later on down the line? Does your brain just filter the information into two piles ( Useless and beneficial)?

    My ex rarely listened to me. She loved talking over me. She interrupted me and believed that I had nothing important to say. I didn’t see it at the time because I was on love but the only thing she was listening for was the fuel that she got from me. It’s sad.

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  8. HG, with that Gettysburg Address line and all the rest of this fabulous article, you’ve nailed me, my dad, my brother, my grandfather, and my uncle, narcissists all. A brilliant article. Except with my uncle it was always stories and more stories, because he was only a Mid-Range narcissist. He grew up under my towering father’s shadow, the poor dear. Ditto for my brother, who grew up under mine.

    I can’t deal with endless stories from empaths either. At least, with the wonderful fuel, give me insights, thoughts, impressions, interrelations between things, the meaning and significance of something that is happening to you (from which I will learn of you all that I need), about events in the world (from which you will learn), or anything else my ever-restless uber-genius mind can engage with. Maybe even something to trigger one of my famous Gettysburg address-style speeches, in which you will struggle just to understand because, after all, I know, you are inferior. I just don’t show you I think that way until a bit later down the road, when I am already more or less done with you.

    If you can’t do that, if you’re not that bright but you’ve got everything else I need, then instead take me skydiving, or ziplining, or something that will trigger that physical adrenaline rush, and demonstrate to you, kind empath sir, as to how utterly fearless I am (and you’d best at least pretend to match me on that count, even if you can’t in reality). But not stories! Even worse stories about people I don’t know. I would say they bore me tears, except those aren’t in my vocabulary.

    Thanks again, HG.

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    1. Triad, all this time, I thought you were a male narc. Your name had me fooled. Sorry if I flirted, I can’t help it. I am boy (narc) crazy. 😍

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  9. Love, that’s ok I did too. One wouldn’t immediately know what gender someone is by the written word alone. Besides the Internet itself makes everything ambiguous, since the conversation itself, if not the subject matter, is outside the real world. Still by your writing, from the point of view of a narcissist I am able to appreciate your type of energy, that is, I can see how a male narcissist would appreciate it in real life. Cheers to you!

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  10. Ok HG I have a question ?now the narc/phychopath who had me Be live he lived in Canada & does not .I think he lives in our utility shed outside ..sometimes. I wonder..but my question is when we talked on the phone which is a lot ..I did all the talking he rarely talked much ….empaths can. Read people well & have a very high intuition.maybe this is why I read him so well ..why would it be that way me talking most of the time if your kind demand the listener ?thanks Lisa

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    1. That was done during the initial fact-finding to establish that you are a good target and to gather ammunition to use against you later. Once seduced, you are to listen.

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