I’d like to believe I’m a good listener. When I delve into learning about listening, it seems I’m always reminded of how to be better. As I’m reminded, I have plenty of room for improvement and will likely work on this for the rest of my life. I found infinite room for improvement in this model and distilled it to share.
As the image suggests, level one is a default setting for many of us. It’s where we listen so we can speak. Said another way, we’re not really listening, we’re distracted, listening to our inner narrative and identifying what we want to respond with. This type of listening has the greatest potential for misunderstandings and causes us to miss information from the speaker.
Level two is focused listening. This is where we’re focused on and actively listening to the other person, with no plan of what we’re going to ask or say. In select situations, we do this. Think of when you deeply care about someone and the topic they’re sharing, like when you’re infatuated, or falling in love. We hang on every word and are fully present. For most of us, our attention depends on the person or topic. This is spotty at best. To reach understanding, it can’t apply to some, it needs to apply to everyone.
The third and highest level is listening to understand. Few of us practice often enough to do this well. It requires intention and suspension. It means we are fully present to the speaker and are listening to understand their experience as well as the context surrounding it, including their underlying thoughts and feelings which means we suspend (or temporarily let go of) our thoughts, opinions and judgments about what’s being said.
Most conflict results from a lack of listening.
Perhaps we can all practice a bit more?
*Level 3 listening is derived from Co-Active coaching.