Merge's Blog

Empathetic listening can be difficult

Now THIS is a funny video …

Now some of you will question whether the video is sexist; perhaps (I thought it was funny).  Nevertheless, if you can set that possibility aside, it also illustrates something that I observe often in workplaces.  As leaders, we often see employees struggling with some aspect of their jobs, and our first instinct is to help them solve the problem.  After all, the solution is plainly obvious to us.  If we just helped them solve the problem, all would be well, right?

ListenBut just like in this video, sometimes all the employee really wants is for you to listen.  Listen and empathize … while the employee works it out for himself or herself.  Real leadership manifests when you hold your tongue and let your employee articulate the problem; if you listen with empathy, the employee eventually (more times than I care to mention) formulates the solution as well.

So … do you agree?  Could we all be better leaders if we just listened more?  Or is there a possibility that some of our employees would NEVER figure out how to get the nail out of their heads? 🙂


  • I do agree. I often find I am trying solve the problem because I think that is why they are sharing with me. However one individual has made it clear to me that she just wants an ear to listen. That can be difficult sometimes when it happens too often or in the middle of my busy day.

  • Debbie, I too find that I have to hold back from offering advice or solutions; I think because “the answer” is always on the tip of my tongue! 🙂 But your point about finding the time to listen is valid too. I think that many leaders struggle with time management – it seems a lot more urgent to focus on tasks and deadlines rather than on conversations and relationship-building.


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