Episode 4

Episode 4: Active Listening: The Power of Empathy


January 15th, 2019

33 mins 27 secs

Season 1

Your Hosts

About this Episode

In the short time that a distress line volunteer has on the phone with a caller, developing a trusting and empathetic relationship is crucial. In some areas there are high volumes of callers, forcing some distress centres to limit the time spent with each individual. This makes it particularly important that every volunteer is skilled at developing a quick and caring rapport with callers while being effective in guiding them through the process. In this learning module called Active Listening and the Power of Empathy, Victoria Kehoe reviews key elements in establishing trust with a distressed individual and works through the process or working through challenging disclosures, with the use of empathy and active listening. She gives examples of wording which facilitate the volunteer to present as an empathic listener to their callers’ issues. She provides guidelines to assist callers in realizing their support networks and explore their options. Questions for Further Consideration Have I ever paid attention to how my voice or tone may impact how a caller reacts when they present with a distressful situation? Make sure to pay attention to your tone and how quickly you may be speaking when a caller sounds distressed. Callers feel connected to the warmth, comfort and understanding of your tone much more than the words that you say. Your tone is your number one tool in transmitting empathy to the caller, even if you slip and use unhelpful phrases. How easy is it for me to slip out personal information? Do I feel confident setting limits around self- disclosure? Have you reviewed your agency’s policies regarding this issue? If unsure, it might be helpful to speak to your Executive Director or Volunteer Coordinator about what is safe and what is not. Remember to always connect any self disclosed information back to the caller’s feelings about their issues, because what a caller really wants to know is if you understand how they feel – not necessarily having the exact same experience. Have you ever thought about your support networks? Reviewing them may give insight to the importance of each level of support. These include internal, external, and peripheral supports.