Ahhh listening! It is a favorite topic of ours. We teach these three levels of listening in pretty much every single workshop that we have developed. AND, like everything thing we talk about and teach at StepUp it takes practice and awareness!
We believe that the ability to listen to truly listen to others is a key skill for managers. If you take a moment and think about it, listening is how we create engagement. Listening lets people know their ideas matter. It supports collaboration and connecting with the human beings you’re working with.
To deepen your listening skills, we’re going to introduce you to three different ways of listening, they are very creatively called Levels 1, 2, and 3!
Level 1: Internal Listening
At Level 1, your awareness is on yourself. You listen to the words of the other person, but your attention is on what it means to you. Maybe your boss has just said, “We are thinking about cutting the project you have been working on for the last three months, as it is just not profitable.” A normal reaction would be to stop listening to your boss and begin listening to the voice inside your head that might be arming you with a defense over why this is not a good idea or you might be dissolving into panic about job-security. When you are in Level 1, the spotlight is on ‘me’: my thoughts, my judgments, my feelings, my opinions, my anxiety and my conclusions. Some of the questions you might be asking at Level 1 are:
- How does this relate to me?
- What’s interesting about this to me?
- How am I doing?
- What can I add to this?
- How am I feeling?
- What do they think of me?
We also call this the “me” channel because the focus is all on you.
Level 2: Focused Listening
At Level 2, there is a sharp focus on the other person. Whenever I describe this level of listening in the seminars that we give, I talk about being out with a great friend and they are telling you a story. Maybe it was something that happened on vacation or at work. It doesn’t really matter. All of your curiosity is about them and their experience. You might say, “And, then what happened? And then what did you do?” You are hanging on their every word! In a way, you are not even aware of your own Level 1. All of your attention is on the other person. You listen for their words, their meaning, their challenges, their emotions. You notice what they are saying and how they are saying it. Some of the questions you might be asking are:
- What does this mean to him or her?
- What does he or she need or want?
- What’s important for him/her?
- What is she/he feeling?
- What is going on for her/him?
- How is this working for her/him?
Level 2 is a hard focus on the other person. A great place to be when you are in a one on one.
Level 3: Global Listening
To listen at Level 3 you must be open and ready to listen for information that may not be directly observable. This can feel like the most woo-woo of any of them – but boy is there great information here if you are willing to look. You are listening to the people you as well as the environment. It is sometimes described as environmental listening or as I said at the start Global Listening. It is the ability to read a room – the mood, the emotions, the unspoken information – and monitor how it changes in response to what you are doing or what’s happening in the room. Comedians, musicians, trainers and actors all have this ability. It includes observing the action, the inaction, and the interaction in a group. The example I love to share is, you are 15 minutes late for the manager meeting. You walk into the room or jump on the call and you know that bad news has just been delivered. You may not know the content but you know that bad news was delivered. Body language, eye contact or lack of eye contact, what people are saying or not saying – all contribute to Level 3. Places to look and good questions to ask yourself here when listening at Level 3 are:
- What’s needed here? What’s not needed?
- What is happening in the space?
- What’s the mood of the group?
- What is the quality of the energy?
- What is being called for here?
- Is something missing? Is there too much of something?
If you have to run meetings, this is a good place to look: What is the environment telling you?
Sounds easy enough – right? But the point is not to park yourself in any one of these levels. The point: to be scanning between all three levels – what is needed? Don’t just hang out in Level 1 – practice shifting into Levels 2 and 3.
Some of us find level 1 the seductive place/most of us do (this is where I want to make sure that my point is heard or what I have to say is “right.” I get it – you are trying to get your voice out there in the world!
Some of us find level 3 easy to hang out in – you want to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, that all points are put on the table. But then we lose our turn or our ability to have our voice be heard.
Level 2 is a place that we have all had experiences with. You are mesmerized by what the OTHER person is saying.
We are not saying any one place is “right” or “wrong”. They all have value. We are pointing to you becoming more conscious. What happens when you consciously look at Level 2 or 3? What new information is there?
So how do you know what to say or when to say it. The truth is . . . you don’t. But this is where you have to make a decision. One of a million decisions you make in a day!
Some place to begin or some things to think about are the following:
- Practice listening at Levels 1, 2, 3 and see how this might broaden your awareness. Notice where you default and expand from there. This is not about being perfect but expanding!
- When you notice something – let’s say in the level 3 (or Level 2) try asking a question and PAUSE: “I feel like something just shifted, did anyone else notice that?” or “Just checking in, are you OK with that decision?” PAUSE and see what happens next!
- Curiosity will be your friend as you are expanding your awareness – look outside of yourself and notice what is going on with the others you are with – and get curious!!
Thanks for joining us for this week’s “Five-minute Epiphanies How to Mine the Mess for Success: Tips, Snippets and Stories.” For more information check us out at www.stepupleadership.com and join us next week where Debbie Cohen will be talking about the power-skill Asking For Help – we all struggle with this so check in to get some new tips and tricks.