Empathic Listening means being willing to listen solely to understand what your partner means and feels - not to judge, rebut, advise or contradict. Instead of hearing only part of what is said, guessing at the remainder and immediately beginning to frame your reply, you need to silence your critical voice and focus entirely on what your partner is trying to tell you. For a moment, it's as if you become your partner, achieving in the process a high degree of intimacy.
The greatest impediment to empathic listening is our self-interest and self-protective mechanisms. We listen for what is of interest to us, we listen for things that enhance or affirm our position or qualities, and we listen for openings to jump back into the conversation, to relate our own views or experiences. This is natural enough, but it is a barrier to intimacy. There is no way that your response can be helpful or make sense unless you've first truly understood what your partner actually meant.
---excerpt from: Lori H. Gordons & Jon Frandson(2000) Passage to Intimacy, Revised.
pdf document: Listening with Empathy