I am a trained listener and what I’ve noticed is that listening is a missing skill in our social, educational and business training, and it has a huge impact on how we show up in the world as leaders. But, did you know that there are actually 4 levels of listening? In this blog post, we’ll talk about the first two levels.
When we listen to another human being, and I mean really listen, the I’m-all-ears kind of listening, we are giving a beautiful gift to another. We’re allowing them to be witnessed, and to be heard.
When I hear “Thanks for listening” I know that I’ve been there for someone, to support, absorb, and allow them to say what needed to be said.
I learned many years ago that there are 4 levels of listening. It’s very powerful to become aware of them so that you can leverage what you’re good at and improve what you’re not. The goal is always behavioural flexibility so that you can use the appropriate level of listening in any given moment.
Level 1 listening is when it’s all about me. All of my focus is on myself while I’m listening to someone else. They may be talking about a new productivity app they got yesterday and you’re focused on all the things on your to do list and what you’re going to make your family for dinner tonight. You are missing much of what the other person said with this level of listening and trust me, they’ll pick up on the fact that you’re only half there for them.
This level of listening is when it’s all about the other person. All of my focus is on the other person while I’m listening to them speak. And I mean 100% on the other person. So I shut out the self-talk and the random thoughts that creep in to my mind and I focus on being totally with the other person and digesting what they’re saying. This is truly listening to someone and they will know it!
At level 2 you can also listen unconditionally, without judgement, without needing to fix something or make it better. Sometimes this is all someone needs.
And there are other times when we really need a solution and we want to talk so we can get ideas from someone or brainstorm together. Men tend to be good at this. They really, really want to fix it when they hear us women talking about a problem or an issue.
When we know we need someone to listen, it’s extremely helpful to ask them for precisely what we need. Usually you either just want them to listen or you want them to help you get to a solution. Here’s a way of wording the request when you just want someone to listen (thanks to Janice Berger & Associates for this many, many years ago)…
Please just listen to me.
I do not need you to fix me or solve my problem for me.
I am my own best problem solver.
It helps me to process my feelings when you just listen.
It moves me along toward my own resolution when I feel you are trying to understand what I am feeling.
You do not need to agree with me.
I would like you to allow me my feelings.
My feelings are not right or wrong, they just are.
If you cannot listen now, please just say so.
Next time you need someone to listen, be intentional about what you ask of them. You’ll be surprised at how much more rewarding the conversation is. Let me know how it works for you! I love getting feedback. Don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog if you have one via the commentluv feature here on the site.
In the next blog I’ll explain the 3rd and 4th levels of listening. Be sure to subscribe if you’d like to receive it in your inbox!