July 21, 2020

antelope listening with huge ears

I am a trained listener and what I’ve noticed is that listening is a missing skill in our social, educational or business training, and it has a huge impact on how we show up in the world as leaders and healers.

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.  In it’s purest sense, there is no judgement, no opinions offered, no feedback given… just listening.

I learned many years ago that there are 4 levels of listening.  It’s 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

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 and what they’re doing with it while you’re focused on all the things on your to do list and what you’re going to make for dinner tonight.

You are missing much of what the other person is saying with this level of listening and trust me, they’ll pick up on the fact that you’re only half listening.

Level 2 Listening

Level 2 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 understanding 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.  Many people are exceptional problem solvers and will go into that mode by default. They really, really want to fix it when they hear us 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 want them to simply 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 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.

Listening is a lost art in our fast-paced, what’s-in-it-for-me world.

Level 3 Listening

Level 3 listening is when it’s all about the space in-between.  We call it the system or the relationship between the two or more people in a group. And we see that system as a third entity that has a voice, and has needs and wants.

Listening at level 3 is listening for:

  • What’s in the system?
  • What is the relationship saying?
  • What does the system want, or need?

When we tune in at this level of listening, we tap into the wisdom of the system, which the members of the system are usually unaware of.  It includes reading between the lines, listening for what is not said, and listening to the vibe of the group.

Level 4 Listening

Level 4 listening is when we tune in to everything and ask, “What’s wanting to happen here?” It means taking 10,000-foot view and using your eagle view and your intuition to feel into the insight in the situation or the next step.  We need to look holographically at what is taking place and anticipate what is wanted.

The leader or healer who uses level 4 listening is the one who is one step ahead of everyone else and, super tuned in to the collective.

Now that we’ve covered the 4 levels of listening, ask yourself which is your natural default?  And which listening level provides the greatest opportunity for improvement?  This is your chance to practice noticing yourself moving in and out of levels 1 and 2 while you’re in conversations, and play with stretching in to levels 3 and 4.  Remember the objective is to master them all so that you have maximum range, or behaviour flexibility, and you can use any listening level as needed in your emotional mastery toolkit!

The ultimate intentions of multi-level listening are connection, insight and emotional wellness.

Listening Too Much?

Having said all of this about learning to listen in a new way, it is possible to listen too much, as I recently found out.  When you listen too much, you miss your opportunity to be heard and to share.  People don’t get the chance to get to know you when you listen all the time.  And you can eventually feel depleted and drained if your conversations are all lopsided, and you don’t get to enjoy being listened to as well.  It’s all about striking a balance, and sometimes that means grabbing the reigns of the conversation (especially at business and social events) and interjecting so that you can speak and share for a while.

I invite you to practice the 4 levels of listening and then play with the conversational dance between speaking and listening to create fulfilling and meaningful discussions.

Leave a comment below and let me know which level of listening you’re focusing on practicing, and how it’s going for you.

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