Sins of the Empath : The Listener


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.

31 thoughts on “Sins of the Empath : The Listener

  1. Mona says:

    AVA 101,
    the first thing, you ca do to change these feelings, is to use your brain and to become critical to all other voices. I did not stop listening to others, but whenever they became critical in any way I forced me to ask myself first what is their reason for it. Do they really want to help me or do they want to break my will? Second, I asked myself, are they right or wrong? In former times I always excused first, because I thought I could have done something wrong. Today I say: ” I will look at it.”
    Use your brain and think logically about it. Trust your brain and not your emotions and not your inner critical voices (voices of your parents).
    Investigate your own belief system and look whether there is something wrong.
    The triggers will always be there, but you have the power to decide how much influence they have on you.
    The switch is your logical thinking.

    1. ava101 says:

      Thank you, Mona!
      I will try to remember that again.
      I thought I had become better in that (asking myself why others said/behaved that way), but obviously not constantly enough.
      Maybe I should tattoo that on my arm, that I always have the power to decide.
      But my brain chemistry is completely off … I think, there are chemical reactions, too. When my last lover said those horrible things out of the blue (you know that typical Jekyll – Hide scenario …), I just shut down, I dissociated automatically completely, there was no access anymore to the logical, decision part of my brain …
      Ah, so many topics at once, actually.
      So, yes, I will try to remember that again. 🙂

      1. Mona says:

        AVa101, it is an exercise. It is not easy to do, especially in an emotional situation. Maybe it cannot work in that situation, but surely a few hours later. You lived in a lie about yourself for so many years.
        It is not easy to accept that and it is not easy to see that a lot of pain was caused by that lie and that you followed that lie and invited a lot of people in your life, who recreated that traumatic event again and again. I wish I could explain it better. (English!!!).

        1. NarcAngel says:

          Your English is fine. I have never had a problem understanding what you were trying to get across.

      2. ava101 says:

        Then say it in German, Mona. 😉

        But I think I understand what you are saying. 🙂

  2. lisa says:

    When i think of all the absolute rubbish i listened to from my ex, droning on about all his exes and what they all did to him and how this had made him how he is today, not to mention every other aspect of his life that he is a victim of , his family , his friends , every job he ever had. I didn’t see it at the time , unbelievable !!
    I did say to him in my final conversation that i am now just a story for the next one, to add to all your other stories . Ground Hog Day.
    I do now listen very differently to people and I hear things differently now thanks to this blog.

  3. ava101 says:

    At the moment, it makes me pretty mad that I cannot simply shake off the narc conditioning and experiences. I am grateful to see and understand so much more clearly now, also about myself. But the wiring of my brain, my patterns, etc. don’t just get reset with a snap of my fingers.

    Like … I have tried to understand what makes super-confident successful people so confident and self assured, and it seems that they more often than not really had supportive parents, and positive feedback, from the earliest years on. And they believe that what they do is of worth.
    So, when that is missing, that there simply was no self confidence ingrained into you from an early age, nor all the positive, supportive feedback any child needs when growing up, also a feeling of safety, of being loved, … – but when instead you not only grow up with constant fear and emotional and verbal abuse, but also your confidence is being undermined systematically … How is that to be changed, what has been conditioned in decades, again, and again, …
    I can change things on the surface for some time, there a many tools, such as from NLP or hypnosis, but it all crashes again, very regularly, esp. when there is a trigger.

    And yes, I agree, regular therapy suggestions to build “self love” seem pretty ridiculous, they don’t get deep enough or to the root of all.
    Real meditation has helped me the most, but when the imbalance in my brain hits me full-on, I’m not even able to start to go there …

    I even agree with HG that my emotions are hindering here. But I haven’t found the switch to turn them off.

    1. MB says:

      Ava101, I hear you. Self-love escapes me as well. I find reading certain self-help authors more helpful than therapy. I’m middle-aged and just as confused as ever. Ignorance really is bliss. Head in the sand is where I am most content.

      1. NarcAngel says:

        Whats not to love? Serious question.

        1. MB says:

          NA, can you be the voice in my head for a day? Mine needs an attitude adjustment!

      2. ava101 says:

        MB, thank you so much!! Which authors do you like, whom you don’t find esoteric, superficial talk? How did you manage to get your head back into the sand? 😉

        1. MB says:

          Ava101, John Bradshaw has given me a lot of insight regarding my shame. I like Jen Sincero, Geneen Roth, Byron Katie, Brene Brown.

          My head isn’t BACK in the sand, it never come out! I’m a stuffer, procrastinator and rejector of negativity. I want to ignore it and make it go away. Pretend it’s not there and it can’t hurt me, right?

    2. SuperXena says:

      Hello Ava 101,
      I have been more observant than an active participant lately due mainly to personal reasons. However, your comment made me feel compelled to reach you.
      I understand where you are coming from. You shouldn’t be so harsh to yourself.
      – “…..what makes super-confident successful people so confident and self assured”.

      Being successful is highly subjective. Have you considered the fact that YOU are successful by being who you are and what you do? Who says that others are more “successful “ than you are?

      -“ ….was no self confidence ingrained into you from an early age, nor all the positive, supportive feedback any child needs when growing up, also a feeling of safety, of being loved, … “

      Agreed. You were conditioned that way as others were conditioned to some other patterns( as i.ex. believing that being “successful “ was the only ticket for being “loved” and cared for).

      Once you are aware of your own conditioning patterns, you can “reparent “yourself by reconditioning yourself to positive patterns. It takes time.

      Do not lose faith in yourself. Like any other modifying process , it takes steps forwards and backwards. NLP is an excellent method for rewiring at the deep subconscious level. It requires though a lot of self-discipline ,commitment
      and training as anything in life worth to be achieved.If you have not attended a course in NLP, I highly recommend it. Good stuff. Based on scientific research.

      -…” but it all crashes again, very regularly, esp. when there is a trigger. “
      Do you stumble? : Get up and try again. You will get there. Stay away from what triggers you.

      -“…my emotions are hindering here. But I haven’t found the switch to turn them off.”.

      All people have emotions( narcissits, psychopaths,sociopaths,empaths , normals etc) different in nature but still emotions. People do struggle with emotions. You do not need to “switch them off”. Actually it is the contrary: you need to accept and acknowledge you are feeling the way you do, tell to yourself that it is ok feeling that way and knowing that these feelings will pass.
      I hope this helps. Coming from one that is going ( hopefully) the last stages of re-patterning.
      Best wishes!

      1. ava101 says:

        Thank you so much, SuperXena!!

        Yes, – but ….
        that is the point, success by my standards, and all I want is a peaceful, humble life.

        And I didn’t mean really success in the worldly sense, I meant confidence, to do what one wants to do. Though my mother liked to use my good grades in school for showing off — anything else I ever did was negated, by my whole family, and in any relationship ever after. Never noticed that as an issue in relationships (though there were some fights when I felt it was enough, but they won these fights), because I’d never know any different, it was normal to me.

        Most ex-boyfriends mainly ignored, what I did, but the ex-narc went a little further. I had built up confidence and become self-employed before that … it was all torn down. For years. He has ruined my life, not by taking or destroying physical things, but by rendering me unable to support myself. I have been fighting against that for some years now … … there are better phases, and then there are bad phases … I cannot sustain it in a balanced, continuous way.

        I have started to learn NLP almost 15 years ago …. I am at master level, and have attended a master class with R. Bandler … I have learned hypnosis, and other stuff. But the BASIC self-assurance / reassurance, confidence, etc., simply isn’t there. Plus many, many experiences and re-inforcements over decades. Whatever I did in terms of “working on myself”, etc., might have balanced that out in the best case, … or that is where all my energy went.

        This year, I did A LOT to change my life around, and ditch things I’d hated; and enjoy things, and meet people … and I met several (!!) guys, not even just narcs, but guys whom I hadn’t expected that at all from, who did / said the worst things possible for ME, re-enforcing everything I had tried to overcome. So, how long, or how often can one fight against that and tear oneself up again (in German we say sth like, to tear oneself at one’s own hair out of the swamp). I did that over and over again, but I need my energy at the moment simply for survival ….
        I try to avoid triggers, but I still hadn’t noticed how my last lover really was, because it STILL is normal to me, and I had wished so much that it was ok to trust someone again …. and I also couldn’t avoid my house mate, who made me feel again like I had felt my whole childhood at home.

        So , that is where some basic self love and confidence, and family support, etc. would come in handy … instead my energy is STILL flowing into that direction to fight against what was ingrained by me.
        I haven’t told my mother about my professional life anything for years, what had led to some fights, or rather discussions – but no, I refuse to ever hear her comments again. Same reason why she doesn’t know anything about my current life. She will never understand this.

        Psychopaths don’t have that kind of emtions hindering them to do professional stuff.

        So, how did you repattern yourself lastingly??

        Sorry, I am writing so much these days … maybe I should start a diary.

        1. SuperXena says:

          You are welcome ava 101,
          Thank you for your extensive response.( Yes, you should write a diary!)
          Of what I read , it seems to me that you are showing great self-confidence by doing what you have been doing to re-condition yourself despite the stream against you.
          Your standards of being succesfull are good enough for you . If having a peaceful and humble life it is ,let it be so. They work for you, that should be enough. You should not try to get validation from others.
          I do believe that “even” psychopaths ( and narcissists) have emotions ( of different nature than ours) that they have to learn to control both professionally and privately. They are after all human beings and vulnerable as we are.

          Best wishes.

      2. ava101 says:

        Maybe it was an additional trigger yesterday, to meet my landlady … she is really nice, and suuper confident … so, she had inherited this beautiful house, she is renting out. I have met her parents, uncle & aunt, since I’ve been here (just 1 month), and she gets soooo much help and well, houses. Yes, I know, there might be different issues instead, but she seems pretty happy to me.
        So, because I’ve been in this country just 1 month, she asked me about Christmas and said, I could come to her place if I was alone, all her family was coming together. She asked, if my family was coming to visit, or if I’d go visit them. How do you explain all that to strangers, esp. that the last person on earth, you want to see at Christmas, is your mother and sisters?? And that I still haven’t got over last year’s Christmas and not spoken to them ever since?!
        Not that I care for Christmas …. but still, maybe that had depressed me even more yesterday.

        1. windstorm says:

          I believe I understand how you are feeling and agree with Superxena’s advice. But hearing you describe talking to your landlady, it sounds like you have an opportunity to form a relationship with a fairly empathic person there. Plus a way more considerate and thoughtful landlady than you might have gotten. If you’re up to it, it might be good to go to her house for Christmas. Just a thought.

        2. SuperXena says:

          That is the thing ava101: you do not have to explain yourself to others. ( specially not to strangers). That is what you were conditioned to believe you have to do but you don’t. It is this whispering inner voice of guilt that is ingrained in you that is driving you to believe so..
          Just ignore that whispering inner voice and accept the kind invitation of your landlady without any other explanation! I am sure you will have a lovely Christmas and meet new people!

      3. ava101 says:

        Thank you, dear Windstorm!
        Yeah, but her whole family will be there …
        Yes, she is very helpful and thoughtful, that is right. 🙂

    3. lizk says:

      Try DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy—it’s not just for Borderlines anymore.

      Find a DBT-specific therapist.

      1. ava101 says:

        Thank you, lizk, that actually does look interesting, I can identify a bit …
        Esp. with the paragraph on C-PTSD, looks like the authors and/or inventors know what they are talking about. 🙂

    4. Tappi Tikarrass says:

      Hey ava101

      Don’t stop all the things you are doing to rewire your brain…
      It all takes time.

      Others have given you some great suggestions though I feel that you intellectually know an awful lot but your body is still charged with a lifetime of repressed abuse and emotion, and that is what is getting in the way sometimes.

      Neuroplasticity does work. Though it takes lots of persistence and repetition to build new neural pathways. In this quick fix world we seem to live in, it’s easy to forget that all things take time. Think of it like learning a new sport or hobby. Practice and lots of repetition get the new ‘action’ wired into your brain and develop ‘muscle memory’.

      May I make one last author suggestion? Try/google Hilary Jacobs Hendel
      Again, sending you strength, determination and joy xo

      1. ava101 says:

        Hey, Tappi Tikarrass,

        Okay, yes, you have nailed two of my weaknesses, impatience and sometimes a too intellectual approach (at least that is what some trainers of mine said … that I would immediately take everything with my brain, but not with my emotions/feeling/heart/whatever; also, it’s true that physical therapies don’t speak to me at all … ). 🙂
        So, yes, I will apply repeatedly.

        I meditated a little yesterday, that made me feel better already, and I found an open event from my meditation school, so will force myself to go there. 🙂

        To you, too!

  4. Lou says:

    I am trying to listen to myself now. The problem is that I do not always trust what I hear.

    1. NarcAngel says:

      Is it because the other voices (your mother etc) are louder still? Or do you attribute it to something else?

      1. Lou says:

        Hi NarcAngel,
        It is not my mother; at least not directly. It is mainly emotional thinking (fear and some guilt) and the co-dependent in me who grew up unprotected and “wild”, has always stood on her own two feet but not really assuming it because she did not have the emotional tools to be comfortable doing it. I am about to make changes in my life and she is rebelling and resisting these changes. But I am learning to listen to her arguments, sort them out and give her the emotional tools so that she can grow and be more authentically independent.
        It is weird to talk about the “co-dependent in me” in third person but that is how I am dealing with it and how I feel it (a part of me, not the whole of me).

        1. NarcAngel says:

          Identifying that she (Co-d) is not the whole of you and talking to her in third person sounds like a viable strategy. Listening to her but not letting her rule sounds healthy. I think resisting and rebelling to change is very normal. There is a certain amount of fear even for those who forge ahead. My guess is that they channel it to energy instead of becoming paralyzed by it and that may be the difference. You sound committed to moving forward and I wish you every success in these new changes

          1. Lou says:

            Thanks NA. Yes, learning how to transform fear into energy to move forward is key. Good advice. 😘

    2. Windstorm says:

      “I am trying to listen to myself now. The problem is that I do not always trust what I hear.”

      That comment would make a great meme!

      1. Lou says:

        Thanks Windstorm.

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