Language is the most optimal modality we have for communication, and yet how often do we actually listen (**like really listen**) to each other?
- Looking to sharpen your leadership skills?
- Improve how you interact with colleagues?
- Have better conversations at home?
- Get to the heart of things more swiftly with your coaching clients?
Then this article is for you.
Read on in order to:
- LEARN ABOUT THE FOUR KEY LEVELS OF LISTENING
- MAKE AN ASSESSMENT OF WHERE YOU ARE AT IN THE SKILL OF LISTENING TO OTHERS
- GET A SENSE OF WHERE THOSE AROUND YOU MIGHT BE IN THEIR LISTENING TO YOU
- SHIFT YOUR CURRENT NATIVE LEVEL OF LISTENING TO IMPROVE RAPPORT AND CONNECTION WITH OTHERS
Below is a breakdown of each level – DOWNLOAD, FACTUAL, EMPATHETIC + SACRED listening, along with a description, some examples, tips to be able to spot each one in yourself and others, as well as a few notes for reflection.
Context-dependent, each type of listening has its place – and we will get into that later.
At this level of listening, it is easily apparent that the person you are in conversation with is not listening. An analogy for this level would be literally a computer that you set to download a boxset or program, and the computer is non-responsive other than the data being written.
Imagine your partner is watching sport on TV (think tennis/football/other), and you could pretty much wave a hand in front of their face, and minimal recognition *maybe* along with ‘yeah yeah I hear you’ (and anyway back to my match).
⤑ Minimal eye contact (less than 20-30% of the conversation)
⤑ Your bodies are mostly facing away from each other, disconnected
⤑ The lowest level of rapport at this level
⤑ Most passive/least active level of listening
Know how this feels? When you are perhaps sharing something that has importance to you, and you are being somewhat ignored? Check-in for a moment, and think about the last time this happened. What came up for you then? What comes up now? Doesn’t feel great, right?
Listening is happening at this level, however, I like to think of it as ‘heavily filtered’. So the person you are talking to is hearing to some extent, but they couldn’t repeat back what you just said. A key indicator of Factual Listening is hearing things that have relevance to ourselves.
For example, if the person I am listening to mentions Bali as a holiday destination, and I just came back, my ears might prick up at that stage and I might say ‘oh yeah I know Bali, I just came back…’ Another example would be the person you are talking to looks up at the door to the bar you’re in EVERY time it opens.
⤑ Some eye contact (40-50%), however often broken
⤑ Your bodies are partially facing each other
⤑ The average level of rapport at this level
⤑ Becoming less passive/more active as a level of listening
How does it feel to be on the receiving end of this? Do you have a recent example you can bring to mind? Notice the self-reference in this level of listening: The engagement only takes place when the other person hears something that has meaning for them! Have you ever practiced this with someone that you’d really rather not be listening to? You know EXACTLY what I’m talking about here, right?
At this level of listening, we hear what another person says and follow the thread of conversation entirely. This is the level at which we’re able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – or rather in their experience – and try it on. Based on our tracking of the dialogue, we can be empathetic to another person’s reality, or perspective.
Keywords to listen to would be ‘if I try to imagine how that must feel for you, I experience something like sadness/happiness. A solid level of emotional intelligence is required to be able to put oneself into the experience of another person and try it on.
⤑ High level of eye contact (70% plus)
⤑ Your bodies are either facing each other or very ‘connected’
⤑ There is a deeper level of rapport at this level
⤑ Becoming far less passive/far more active as a level of listening
Have you experienced this level? When was the last time? There is a distinct flow between people in this level of conversation – person-to-person exchange in topic and content. How does it feel to be connected in a conversation like this?
The name says it all, right? This level of conversation is rare, and therefore an experience in itself. The person listening is not making the conversation about them AT ALL, simply holding space for someone to share. At this level of conversation, there are no distractions. Pure presence.
If you are in sacred listening, you won’t experience any separation, you won’t be trying to bring the conversation line back to you, nor will you be interrupting the flow of words coming from the person sat across from you. If someone was on their deathbed and telling you about their dying wishes, would you be interrupting them?
⤑ Highest level of eye contact (90% plus)
⤑ Body positions are very much ‘connected’
⤑ The deepest level of rapport at this level
⤑ The most active level of listening
Maybe you have experienced this level of listening? Maybe you haven’t been lucky enough to, however, this level of listening is an art form in pure presencing, and truly, a gift to humanity. If you haven’t experienced what this feels like, either when talking or listening to yourself, then give it a go…it is profound. Can you listen, without meaning-making, or interruption?
AND FINALLY: CONTEXT DEPENDENCY
Each level of listening is relative to the context. If you are aboard a flight or train for example, then perhaps empathetic or sacred listening isn’t appropriate when the person next to you is talking to someone else. Far more likely you will want to practice factual listening for seat-belt and safety cues, or so that you don’t miss your stop.
One thing is for sure: As human beings, we do not practice listening enough – to others, or ourselves. Getting ourselves out of the way is essential in order to make space for hearing and experiencing others with any depth.
If you’re curious about how to start listening more deeply, why not have a look through my blog for some simple sitting (meditation) practices?
If achieving sacred listening with those around you is something that you’d like to bring into your life, then there are two options for you:
- Book in for some one-on-one coaching with me.
- Book yourself onto the NLP Practitioner course (which is where I started my journey with The Coaching Room, and then moved to Australia to continue!).
Regardless of the context (home, work, clients, in coaching or facilitation), you will onboard the capacity to dramatically change every interaction that you choose to.