Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.
- We listen to obtain information
- We listen to understand
- We listen for enjoyment
- We listen to learn
Given all this listening we do, you would think we'd be good at it! In fact, most of us are not. Depending on the study being quoted, we remember between 25% to 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers, or spouse for 10 minutes, he/she pays attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal!
Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren't hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if they're not?
Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all improve. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate. What's more, you'll avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!
We train our clients in what we call the three levels of listening. Here is how we think about them:
Level One Listening: It’s all about me!
When you listen at Level 1, you are really listening to the sound of your own voice - that’s where your attention is. You may hear the words of the other person, but you are primarily aware of your own opinions, stories, judgments, feelings, needs, and distractions. You may be nodding, and saying, “uh huh,” but inside you are thinking things like:
“I had an experience just like that.”
“This is starting to bore me.”
“I really need to check my email.”
“I’m hungry; when was the last time I ate?”
“I don’t agree with what they are saying.”
Level Two Listening: It’s all about you!
At Level two there is a focus, like a laser, on the other. All of your attention is directed in one way. You are listening intently to every word and “listening” for every nuance in the
conversation. Curiosity rises, judgment diminishes. You begin to notice body language, changes in voice inflection. Your surroundings tend to disappear, often time can go by quickly.
Level Three Listening: Global Listening – It’s all about all of it!
This is listening that takes in everything. At level three listening, you are aware of the energy between you and others. You are also aware of how that energy is changing; you detect sadness, lightness, and shifts in attitude. You are aware of the environment and whatever is going on in the environment. You are conscious of underlying mood, or tone, or the impact of the conversation — where it is taking you and the person you are talking to. You are aware of what is being said as well as what may be in the background. This is also the level at which your intuition will be most available to you. As a manager coach, you must learn to listen at Level three to pick up as much information as possible about the underlying impact in the moment.
Start listening to your own listening and see what you can hear!