Level One: Avoidance Listening = Listening Over
Listeners who listen over others are the people who say, “Uh huh,” while clearly showing no interest in what the other person is saying. They look preoccupied, and they usually are. Sometimes they don’t even stop checking their e-mail or texting on their phones while they’re “listening.” Level one listening can annoy, exasperate, or even infuriate the person who’s talking.
Level Two: Defensive Listening = Listening At
This is listening with your defenses up, preparing your counterpoints while the person is talking. It’s being quick to react and slow to consider. They’re often seen as high maintenance, and over time, people avoid them because they’re exhausting. This is the kind of listening that prompted Mark Twain to say, “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.”
Level Three: Problem-Solving Listening = Listening To
This is listening in order to accomplish things. Problem-solving listeners listen in order to move things forward. If people want your solutions, this is the right approach. But people will feel frustrated, misunderstood and even resentful if you presume to offer “fixes” they don’t want or need.
Level Four: Connective Listening = Listening Into
This is listening of the highest order, and it’s the human listening that all of us crave. It’s listening into other people to discover what’s going on inside them. It’s listening on their terms, not yours. It’s understanding where people are coming from to establish genuine rapport.
To master the art of Level Four Listening, resist the urge to defend yourself, explain yourself, or offer quick fixes. You can help more effectively later, when the time is right, if you don’t pre-judge what another person needs (which might be very different than you think). Instead, remember that you are listening to learn. Ask questions like these:
What does that mean for you? How do you feel about . . . ? What do you think about . . . ? What’s your take on . . . ? What’s your perspective on . . . ? What was your first reaction when you heard? What’s the best thing about that? What else comes to mind?
To put Level 4 Listening into practice, consider these questions:
- Who has modeled Level Four Listening for you in your life?
- When do you find yourself most challenged to use Level 4 Listening?
- With whom is it most important that you raise your level of listening? Thomas Wharton is President of LIFOCUS, Inc, a human resources consulting firm in Rhode Island, providing Career Coaching, Outplacement, Executive Coaching, Assessments and Leadership Development. Tom can be reached at 401.884.7959 • firstname.lastname@example.org. • www.lifocus.com • @careercoachTW