The three levels of listening

April 29, 2006

Did you learn about the three levels of listening in school?  If not, here's a good summary from a book called Co-Active Coaching:

In Level I the listening is internal.  We hear the words of the other person, but the focus is on what it means to us.

Level II is focused listening.  The attention is laser-focused over there: on the other person.

Level III is a global range of listening: hearing that picks up emotion, body language, and the environment itself.

Levels I and II listen primarily for words.  Level III picks up everything else including all of the sensory data as well as mood, pace, energy.  

A pretty simple breakdown that makes easy sense.  However, doesn't everyone know people who only ever listen at Level I?  And aren't there times when we ourselves feel like we're trappen in our own heads and aren't listening very closely to the people we're talking to?  Next time you're talking to a stranger or friend, ask yourself which level you're listening to them on.  Practice listening at Level III, and bring into the conversation information that you're picking up from emotion, body language, and the environment to see how that impacts the conversation.  

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