Empathy is a critical part of listening. Someone may tell you that a situation at work is unfair, but what they are really saying is that they are worried about their job security and what that means for their families. Or they say that they don't like it when their friend makes careless comments, but what they mean is that they feel like their friend constantly disapproves of them. Without empathy, you can't see beyond what someone says to see what they mean. Without empathy, you hear their words and understand the surface-level complaint, but you're not internalizing the deeper emotions that drive a person to need a listening ear.