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 stream of facts and opinions that are being spewed in your direction until there is an apt moment for you to respond.

Your 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, confident 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 going. 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 that 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 to 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 listening, 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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29 thoughts on “The Sins of the Empath : The Listener”

  1. Thank you. I thought I had been ignored. You’re answering my questions through your articles. With intent or not.
    Thank you many times over.
    Kind regards,
    A.R.

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  2. I hate it when that happens. My entire comment disappeared.
    Let me start again. HG, you write brilliantly, and I love how diverse your vocabulary is!! (Well it’s a verb.) The reason I (we? Can one really speak for another?) The reason I listen is because I am interested in what you have to say. I can get to know you. I love to learn. I’m interested in amost anything. The basis though, is because I like you and love getting to know you. I do have ADD, and that makes it difficult for me to restrain myself from interjecting more than is necessary. This is due to poor impulse control. (And I went on a 3-greek-island cruise and loved it…being on shore wasn’t that interesting (not enough time to explore [except in Crete ♡ where time is unregulatex]) but relaxing on the ship going along over the water was…just wonderful.
    I UNDERSTAND what it is like to be so anxious, ashamed, and befuddled in the mind as to not be able to take things in. THAT REASON ALONE is what I found to be so dangerous with my first ex. The reason? Part of my instinct told me that my (honest to God true) adoration helped heal him, giving him all the time he needed to not only “get it all out,” but then the space to think, for as long as he needed, then more space for I realized he “needed ddd to get to know himself.” After that? Fter getting to know himself, he left for another woman….or maybe, I wondered, I had unknowingly married him on the rebound from his first marriage. I also didn’t know how to be married. “If you don’t like it, leave.” That was me. That was wrong. But I knew everything. What I’m saying is, I was a brat. On the same hand, he was very demanding about housework. I tried to explain to him that once I got comfortable i.e. lifting up the Hummel/Lladro whatever, dusting, then replacing them, that my tempo would pick up. (Well? Ya can’t hurry with those things ya don’t want to break them.) I asked him to consider me as a trainee at work; one to whom the latitude of being slow while learning, would be given. But because I wouldn’t compromise and take but one class per semester (8 wk long, 6-10pm 2x/wk per class,) we only had Fri evening to clean….and I need to study to learn. Plus, he didn’t trust me. There was no reason not to trust me. Plus, I had NO idea at the time, how it affected a person to be,an,adult child of an alcoholic. My stepmom was; and their marriage,was really great. When I finally learned,about Al-Anon…instead of the both of us learning,about it together, he,chose to let his girlfriend teach him….actually his girlfriend,and I became “frenemiez” (I didn’t know this term at the time. We compared notes,,so to speak. I accepted the fact that she loved him. She validated what I experienced. And she taught me thing,SHE learned in Al-anon. For example, how to make an agreement to disagree. That was HUGE! I never knew that I never knew! (I had only recently learned, “Fix the problem not the blame…) to be continued

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  3. To sum it all up, I love this man (him.) He doesn’t love me back, I get it I’m ok with that finally. (Still angry w God.) What that means to me is, I would give HIM the same space I gave the ex. HE is brilliant (he really is.) But I have taught myself not to react. So I guess I wouldn’t give him the adreniline rush (the fuel) he needs….I would only be able to quietly love him. I will say, I NEVER got tired of the same anticdotes he told at dinner. They were funny. Even after we broke up, I still brightened up the room when he came in to say ‘hi’ (he worked accross the street fm where I worked.)
    So my biggest fear going into a serious relationship would be, “what happens after he,does get to know himself…”
    Maybe I am being naif?

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  4. I would understand where he is coming from. Even if I look like i am afraid,and hurt, I would,still understand and let it go. So many good people,did it for ME. It took me YEARS to process it all. And I “left a lot of dead bodies in the street…” Yet once I learned, I learned.

    But hitting would be my deal breaker. Bein w other women/porn…the porn just takes him,away from me at night…See ir’s hard to say without being able to talk w the person. Would limiting the porn to just a couple times a,wk work? Is there a porn anon? Having other women? Maybe Nikki is right about enabling the person. She must be because he loves her.

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  5. There are things easier to discuss. Like could ya subligate the mean part into a game? I get it how ya gotta get the pain out. And if you needed to cry i would always be here 4ya huggin you. Thats a nobrainer

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  6. HG if the N. Wanted to poor his heart out to me every single day of the year i’d understand. For years that is what i did. The words kinda just it was like,automatic talking. My friend Sheppard i was his supv use d to talk to me lie that a good 2 hrs a day. Then after that he would be fine and able to work.if a person who has been traumatized in youth for years and is,a guy (shep wasnt an omerta kind of guy,) he is going to have tons of stuff he needs to get out. Its normal.

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  7. I would want to hear every bit of it. Over and over as long as needed. Then i would be able to recognize an ill placed comment and say, “remember u told me this (whatever it was that clicked in my mind fm the n’s stories)? Is that what triggered you?” It’s cos the n. And his stories would be so important to me i would remember and he would say in disbelief, [“oh.”] Because it would click in his mind too. And he would be like, “oh i never thpught of it that way.” And it would be because all the stuff that had been in his head all those years, he never got out. Cos ya have to get it out first before ya can start connecting those dots. That is how it happenned w me. Like they say, those who have a good friend never need a psychiatrist.

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  8. I can give u an example from my own life. My psychitrist asked me i think 3 times at 3 different appts if i was a feminist. I knew i wasnt? But i didnt remember why. I racked my brains…then stopped thinkin about it. Then racked my brains. It took maybe 9 months. Then i was texting one day and it just came right out. I didnt like how the 1970 feminists used to act like “just” being a wife and mom was inferior. Then …the definition came thru on a text, that all a feminist meant was equal pay for work. “Oh, that. Yes i believe in that. I just believe women can keep being feminine and want equal pay for equal work.” Because my definition of feminist went back to the 70s when the feminists came on really really strong and it wasnt feminine. Well that movement influenced me into acting like those women…..until I realized I didn’t like being non feminine. BUT. at the time i had no none assertiveness skills. I had to go through the whole process of first acting defensive cos i was defensive. For example, “Hey! I was next in line!!” ….then at some point it dawned on me that sometimes people dodnt do that on purpose. At the same time i was learning the hard way that people don’t like it when i am rude…even though they were idiots who didn’t know what they were doing…… then it hit me to be softer and i would say, “excuse me ma’m, i think im next.” THEN …a few years later, I realized that saying is using HUMOR made it even easier: ” i’m not tryin to cut in line, but i don’t know who was first.” To be cont

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  9. But my first impulse was still to be defensive. So i had to…put on a mask to slow down. Cos my first impulse was always to act like i had been taught to when I was little: be very mean.
    AND THAT IS ONLY ONE TINY EXAMPLE. I found I had to relearn everything. And i NEEDED a mask. It has been “a bitch!” SO I GET IT.

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  10. Being i went into the AF 6 months after high school? And being that i was in the Personnel career field (with everyone in that field being ‘people knowers.’ I was constantly reminded tactfully and rudely that i was outta line. Maybe that was the blessing of me going into the military.

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  11. But being overseas, people are like family because EVERYBODY’s family is back home. And working with the same managers for 10 years, they knew I was a good kid doing my best to improve myself ( I never even had a tv i was either taking classes at night or exploring ‘being on the evonomy.” (That’s military talk which means, “being off base ACTUALLY IN GE not staying in ‘Little ‘America.”

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  12. Yup H.G. it’s me again. Been thinkin on n off diggin deep all since last memo. There is a beautiful metaphor about the moon, the tide flowing onto the shore, and it’s gravity; the water’s ebb and flow. I understand that marriages ebb and flow. I had a talk about it with one of the ladies on church council in GE the day of the air show. It was a few years before the Italian AF”s fighter planes crashed on the runway–theirs was the best of the show. There would be 2, flying right at ea other. It was almost like right in front of you, if you got a good seat in front of the runway. Each plane would rush at each other, with red, white, and green smoke like the flag, emitting from the planes’tail wings. When they met each other in the middle : right in front of us (with the good seats (sit on blanket on ground), they would both flip upside down, each in the other direction (like to dip a greeting except it was 180°?) Hold that position for a couple of seconds, (till they passed each other [with about like 1″ between them (it seemed,), turn back right side up then fly up so far away, like The Blue Angels or the AF group (dont remember their name), that you couldn’t hear them anymore…….then come around again (in a circle: so now each would fly at each other from the OPPOSITE direction, and flip over again. Before anybody clapped, there was huge collective gasp from everyone watching from the sideline. It was as though the flight line was the football field, and spectators on: only ONE side were allowed. It was better than the Blue Angels or The Thunderbirds (Ha I remembered) ONLY because it was so “right in your face.” (The smoke would diffuse right through the crowd, that is how close to the ground they flew.) The parksh council was having a chili stand. My ex decided it was me who was going to be in charge, because I was so eager to do it. Of course, he was the one that kept letting me flounder…then step in and helped? But noy did I learn a lesson: organizing that whole thing planning it dadadada was one the most difficult things I’ve ever done. The adults were as difficult to motivate as the kids in AFS were back in high school.
    So my friend told me that when the marriage flowed, ya went with the love, and when it ebbed, ya adhered to the commitment. To be continued

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  13. OK. After wracking my brain…….
    ..it is not as romantic as a big beautiful moon shining at night watching over the couple sitting on the beach watching and listening the waves.
    But to me I see the marriage relationship more clearly using another metaphor. Cos in marriage ya gotta “fight clean” (have dirty sex and clean fights”) and after the fight has to come the soloution which is adopted by the couple………then they move on. So my metaphor is like the Loggins & Messina song RUN RIVER RUN. (I can’t hurry up. This is important for me to get out.)
    Its about the couple being the river which moves and moves and keeps going –at its various tempos and moods…and the hore being the time. Yes the love ebbs and flows. More importantly, the couple keeps learning and turning growing and loving, hence the name of the song. To be cont

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  14. How do those scenarios fit in with the Narc? The Narc likes those arguments just for the sake of the…shall we say, passionate and very loud replies. If the N. Always has to be right, and I understand WHY: he is too insecure to be able to say, “oops my bad,” (i used to be that way too,) how can compromises be made? If the N. Can’t remember (and I understand WHY,) how can both people adhere to their compromises and “guidelines” (i.e.everytime I say “blahblah,” you say a special word that triggers me into remembering that i am not supposed to say, “blahblahblah.?
    To be cont ( gotta get it out, ok?)

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  15. (This is the last part.)
    Then, the N. Needs that loudness. And likes it. Cos it lets his soul dance in his body.” ME being a super sensitive? The loudness comes through as noise, i can’t concentrate, therefore can’t hear the message nor give ANY reply.

    That is one scenario in which both people are in a lose//lose. Situation.

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  16. OK. After wracking my brain…….
    ..it is not as romantic as a big beautiful moon shining at night watching over the couple sitting on the beach watching and listening the waves.
    But to me I see the marriage relationship more clearly using another metaphor. Cos in marriage ya gotta “fight clean” (have dirty sex and clean fights”) and after the fight has to come the soloution which is adopted by the couple………then

    I live outside my comfort zone.

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  17. Beau Taupin wrote a beautiful paragraph. It’s essense is, “If ya find true love, drop everthing and go for it.” It is in reverance to those words, that I offer this feedback. These comments,are the essence of my 42 years of adult-life mistakes made in,search of true love. They are full of value. So,are my sories.,xo

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  18. Ok HG. HG I HAVE QUEZTIONS FOR YOU. NOw that I—–got all my feedback out i can go back and ask u questions. Lesser first (lol). R u saying the lesser has to focus all his attn on himself just to be able to keep his message clear enough to get it out of his head. Why. Is it like me having to empty my buffer of all that is in there before i can concentrate on what i want to say? (Is the buffer too full to fit any more?) Or: is it that what he wants to say has to come out fast, sort of like a verbal tourette? Or: i.e. i cant get a paragraph’s meaning when i have bad anxiety cos the words just bounce off my brain. Do the thoughts not come cos he is so anxious nothing can come through that “sheet of ice” (anxiety)? That isnt the same as the deer-in-the-headlike thing, because the deer in the headlight is like a fear–mental startle reflex right? Or: is there so much internal noise that he cant hear himself cos the noise won’t shut up? Can you break down the why into smaller consecutive steps (by the numbers as we would say in the military.) Also, does he need FUEL to be better able to to concentrate on what he wants to say. I think i get a piece of it. Is this accurate: When it comes out, it has to be authntic….where during the love bombing, it is imitated so it doesnt really have to be thought about. Is that it? He has to really really think and feels dumb cos it takes so long to figure out how he himself really believes? or is there another reason?

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      1. ABB
        Yes. I read it all but theres a point where you miss the point so I didnt listen. I suppose though that I was just eavesdropping since she is really speaking to HG so I hope she feels better having got it all out. It just reminds me that in my life people come to talk to me constantly and I start out listening but if they go on, its not long before I start thinking who the f**k cares about this but you? im my head. Im always struck by how selfish they are thinking other people have nothing better to do than listen to them. That they cant read the cues that I have tuned out ages ago and if they have, how selfish they are in continuing just so THEY feel better. I dont even know why they still approach knowing that I will often end the conversation abruptly, unless its because I cut them off with an answer or solution. I once turned to a woman in a meeting and said incredulously: my god are you still talking?! And now Im laughing because I have just gone on to you. Did you get all that ABB? Still laughing.

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