Listening is one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader, yet very few people invest the time and energy to do it right. In this episode you’ll learn about the 3 different levels of listening and when to use each one of them. So, get out of your head, into your heart and let’s talk about the three levels of listening.
Hey, it’s Julie and welcome to the Corporate Yogi podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about something you do all the time, something you’re technically doing right now, we’re talking about listening. And I’m just like you, I do a LOT of listening. That’s my job truly, I often joke that I am a professional listener. That is a huge misconception about coaching, people thinking that as coaches, we do all the talking. Not true. The truth is, we do a heck of a lot more listening, than we do talking. And sometimes listening can be more exhausting than talking is. What are we listening for? Well – everything! We’re listening for what’s said, what’s not said, for pauses in speaking, for tone of voice, for fear based thoughts, for limiting beliefs, for narratives, for hesitation, for double signals (which is where we say something but our body language says otherwise and contradicts our words), we listen for the moments when clients are trying to convince themselves that the story they’re made up is true, or that they don’t actually care about something… even thought they keep bringing it up, and the other really important thing we’re listening for is Saboteurs. You know those sneaky little suckers, the monkey mind that tries to keep us safe and small inside our comfort zone. I could go on and on, bc there are so many things we listen for, but I think you get the picture, there are a LOT of things we can listen for. This is what makes it so rich. You see, listening isn’t just one dimensional, oh no, and it’s not 2 dimensional, it is 3 dimensional. And you’re about to learn about each of the 3 different levels.
So, here’s a look at what you’re going to learn today.
So, get out of your head, into your heart and let’s dive right in, shall we?
Let’s start with a simple explanation of the different levels of listening and what function they play.
Level 1: is Internal Listening, where you’re listening to your inner voice.
This is when you’re listening with the intent to respond. We are listening to what the other person is saying, however we are ALSO very focused on ourselves. We’re focused on our own needs. On processing, how does this information apply to me. A great example is if we’re listening to directions, or instructions where we have to replicate something. Or if we’re in a heated debate or discussion and we want to be able to dive in with our opinion, perspective as soon as they’re done talking. We often call this level 1 when we’re Listening to Speak. This is honestly, how most of us learn how to listen by default, and unfortunately where many people stay and never ever develop their listening skills at all. Because we are listening to speak, and so focused on what we’re going to say as soon as they pause to breath, we’re only putting a certain percentage of our energy into listening, into the other person, so we’re only hearing part of the conversation. Depending on the situation, it can cause a misunderstanding and lead to assumptions – where we fill in the blank with what we think. There is a time and a place for Internal listening – if you’re in a debate, or you are moderating a panel, then you definitely want to be responsible and ready with what you’re going to say next. So level 1 is Internal listening.
Level 2: is Focused Listening. This is where we listen intently to another person and we are listening to hear what they have to say @ 100%. When you’re truly listening to the other person and what they need, you’re listening and being totally present with them, and not thinking about yourself or how their information will impact you, or how YOU will need to replicate it. It’s all about them and you’re hanging on their every word, bc in that moment they are the most fascinating person you’ve ever spoken to. This is a more evolved style of listening and takes a lot more of your focus and energy.
Now Level 3 listening: is when you Listen to others in the context of their entire surroundings, you are listening to understand. You use all your senses, you watch their body language, their tone of voice, the pauses in their speech, their pacing, their energy levels and you have complete and total awareness over all of what they are saying and communicating. In the intro I mentioned a long list of the types of listening that we do, it was a long list – and most of the items on this list are level 3. This is where we want to spend most of our time as coaches, this is where we’re mining for gold, we’re listening for the tough love moments. This is Level 3 listening and it is powerful! And, I should also give you the heads up that this is the hardest of all 3 levels, and the one that uses up a lot of energy. If you try to listen at this level all day long, you will notice how much energy it takes from you. I use the 3 Levels of listening all the time, they serve me in difft circumstances. But when I’m in a coaching role, I’d say that I spend most of my time at Level 3.
To recap those 3 different levels, Level 1 – we are listening to speak, Level 2 – we are listening to hear, and Level 3 – we are listening to understand.
OK so now you have a solid understanding of the different types of listening. Why is it important to know when you’re doing each one? You might be wondering, people can’t really tell which level I’m listening at, can they? So why would I use up all that energy and effort trying to get to Level 3? Well as a leader you don’t have to spend all your time listening at level 3, but I will tell you that people are able to tell the difference – either at a conscious or subconscious level. Have you ever been part of a conversation and someone asks you the same question, and you explained yourself quite clearly the first time, but here they are asking again. Well that can feel frustrating and chances are, they’re not actively listening at level 3. When you were a kid, were you ever told by an adult that you were born with 2 ears and only 1 mouth – which means that it is more valuable to be a good listening, than it is to do all the talking. And this is so true, good listening is really hard to do. But this listening deficiency that a lot of people have, isn’t really they’re fault. It is definitely a believe in our collective consciousness that being a good communicator means you are a good speaker. We don’t watch ted talks where the camera pans over the audience and features them for 20 minutes straight as they absorb what the person standing on that red dot carpet on the stage has to say, NO. We focus all our time on the speaker and what the speaker has to say. We have public speaking contests and debate contests and the power goes to the person who is the most eloquent speaker, not for being an eloquent listener. This pattern is often reflected in our boardrooms as well, or in our Zoom virtual meetings, the person who speaks up most and dominates the conversation is often perceived as the person who is in control, or who holds all the power. Now this may be authentic power, or it may be bully-based power. Either way, and like it or not, this is often a common misconception. This is a common complaint I hear from Introverts, they feel defeated in meetings bc they aren’t often able to dominate the conversation, especially in an off-the-cuff discussion, which is why it’s always important to have the agenda in advance so you can organize in advance and be prepared during the meeting with your thoughtful perspectives. And I want to share one of my favourite tools here, if you’re in a conversation or meeting where you suspect another person is Level 1ing you, yes I just turned that into a verb. You can ask them to play that back to me, so I know that you fully understand it. This playback tool can really be used in any conversation or situation, but you want to be conscious that it doesn’t come across with a condescending tone, as if you’re speaking to a child. I love the playback tool and use it all the time.
Now if I know you as well as I think I know you, chances are you already are a pretty good listener. You might level 3 your staff most of the time, but I’m guessing that you don’t do it anywhere near to the extent that you could be doing it. And when I say this simple skill will turn you into an amazing leader, it might sound like I’m exaggerating, being a bit dramatic, but I’m really not. When you really master this tool, it will take your leadership up a notch, and people may not even notice what you’re doing differently, they’ll just know that they feel different around you, more empowered, more seen and heard by you. And that all comes from mastering the art of…. Listening – more specifically the 3 different levels of listening. You see the fundamental core need that people have, is to be seen and heard, they want to work for a leader who truly listens to and values what they have to say. And in truth, employees will only stick around for so long in situations where they don’t feel seen and heard or appreciated. And this is where you can use something like the playback tool on yourself. When they tell you their ideas or give you feedback, you can say, yes, I did hear and understand your suggestions for launching the new program, and here’s what I think – then you build on what they’ve just thrown down. Or better yet, be that leader that takes note of things you need to follow up on or circle back with, and always follow up on them – trust me, people will appreciate this in you. And when you think of all the different things you could do to improve employee engagement or retention, THIS is one of the most powerful, it doesn’t cost you anything, it doesn’t even eat up much of your time, it may dip into a little bit of energy for you, BUT the rewards that you will reap as a leader will be worth it! I promise you.
OK it’s time to wrap up this episode on the listening.
Let’s recap what you are taking way from today:
And I would love to challenge YOU to try this out in the coming week. See if you can notice when you are listening at Level 1, Internal listening, Level 2 – Focused Listening and Level 3 – Global listening. Also pay attention to see if you can notice how much energy gets used up with each of these 3 different levels.
Thanks for tuning in today. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone who really needs to hear it.
I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday for another great episode and remember, that any fear or resistance you hold deep inside of you, is simply your greatness in disguise.
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