One of the roles that I had in the past in my past career in advertising as a media director was to keep abreast of many media platforms. That often came in the form of listening to “pitches” from sales managers and reps. In fact, I just did the math and estimated that in my career I have heard over 20,000 sales pitches. Wow! (Now I feel old and my ears hurt.) Throughout the years, I became aware of how often I was evaluating each person as much on their delivery, presence or impact as I was their offering or content. Are they asking questions? Reading the room or body language? Focused on developing rapport? Do they notice level engagement?
Until I became a professional leadership development coach, however, I wasn’t aware that there are different types of listening that can make us all better leaders and communicators. This coach training I did introduced 3 listening levels and made a huge impact on me. By paying attention and becoming skilled, you can create more successful interactions.
Internal listening: This is the level where you are actually listening to the sound of our own inner voice. That’s where the attention lies. You’re focused on your own agenda and what you want to get out of a conversation or what you want to say next. You may hear the words the other person is saying, but you’re more aware of our own thoughts, opinions or chatter that’s in your head like: “This is a waste of time”, “I wonder what I’ll make for dinner”, “Does this person like me?”, “How am I going to get all my work done today?”.
This level of listening isn’t bad. It gets you what you want. If someone is asking us what you want for dinner, you may check in by listening to what sounds good to you at the time or what your body wants or craves.
Focused listening: The shift here is from self to other. You have a laser-like focus that’s directed only one way. You’re curious about what’s happening for this person and what they might be feeling. You set aside your own thoughts and opinions and focus on what’s important to them. It’s their agenda. A simple illustration of this is when someone is talking about a loss or struggle and you listen with empathy and emotion. Sometimes you can even feel their experience. Your attention is on them. I’m sure you know the difference when you’re truly present and listening at this level versus distracting by your inner chatter.
Global listening: Can you guess what this is? It’s the shift beyond self and other to the energy field. At this level you are aware of the energy between you and others and how it’s changing. This is the mood of the room, the environment, it’s energy. You’re aware of how you are impacting your environment and use your intuition to guide you in how to participate.
Next time you are in a meeting pay attention to the following:
Where is my attention focused? How much time do I spend in each level of listening?
Heighten your awareness of your internal chatter. How often are you run by that chatter versus listening to the other?
When I notice my internal chatter, what’s the impact when I shift to focused listening?
What’s the mood in the room? How can I react to the energy that’s here in an effective way?
Play with the different levels of listening and see the impact. Noticing the energy of the room (global) with razor sharp attention to others (focused) and a heightened awareness of what you want (internal) can significantly improve your communication effectiveness.