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Four Levels of Listening

Comments      16 March 2016      Learning & Change

Continuing on the communication theme here is a framework for the levels of listening we can employ when engaging with people in our daily lives. As you read through these it might be helpful to think about the interactions you have had over the past few days and recognise which level you tend to utilise the most.

The first two levels are what are known as interior listening, that is, they happen on the inside. Not much is happening on the outside.

Level One - Download Listening

This is one we are all really good at. You know what I mean:

  • while the person is talking, I am talking to myself in my head, usually about something unrelated to the topic at hand
  • I think I know what they are going to say even before they say it
  • I use a lot of ‘I know, I know’s’ and yep yep
  • In reality we are not paying attention
  • The noise in our head is at a level 4
  • Level Two – Factual Listening

  • This is listening essentially for facts that interest or are pertinent to us, not necessarily to the other person. We tend to screen out everything else that is said.
  • We ask a lot of questions like - she did what? With whom?
  • At this level I am only listening to you because it’s important to me. Maybe I am matching my knowledge or testing it.
  • Once your own voice kicks in in your head, you are no longer ‘listening’ only hearing.
  • At this level of listening our investment in ourselves gets in the way of listening. Our self-sense shows up and clouds the listening - I’m older, wiser, don’t know much, education etc.
  • The noise in our head is at Level 3
  • The second two levels are known as exterior listening where we start to connect with the other person.

    Level Three - Empathetic listening

  • At this level we are listening for what that feels like, with and as the other person. We are actually trying on their communication as our own communication and leaving ourselves behind.
  • Here we are listening to the felt experience of the other’s reality and not so much listening to facts. Confirming, acknowledging, validating. Understanding what that must be like for that person from a heart space.
  • We ask excellent questions.
  • There is a lot less noise at this level.
  • Level Four – Pure Mind

  • At this level we listen with an open-mind-heart-gut (open gut means being open to reality without your investment in who you need to be seen as)
  • Another term for this is pre-sensing.
  • When listening with pure mind there is stillness, availability, clarity and a capacity to not have an investment in being seen in a particular way in this conversation.
  • There is silence in mind, heart and gut.
  • At this level we listen with an undefended heart with no cherished outcome.
  • This is where lose your mind and come to your senses works:
    • Lose your mind – stop thinking
    • Come to your senses – use your senses to listen intently, as if you had the Buddha in front of you
  • Thank you to The Coaching Room for this article. For more information about learning to be able to listen with depth give me a call or jump on The Coaching Room’s website to learn about the courses they offer. Let them know I sent you!



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    About the Author

    Debra Burlington

    Debra Burlington

    Debra established Enhance Solutions along with a business partner in 2004. Her vision was to offer a service which addressed complex issues such as enterprise risk management, workplace health and safety and learning and change in a fun and practical manner. A key emphasis was on partnership 'with' rather than expert 'to'.

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