Think about the first conversation you had today.
Do you remember what your partner in that conversation said, or do you just remember the “general tone” of the conversation? Did you just hear your partner, or did you actually listen to him?
Hearing and listening
Hearing is different than listening.
Hearing is the physical act of receiving sound and interpreting it using our brain, while listening is giving the other person our full attention, and understand him. The key difference between hearing and listening is the attention that we give, and the focus of that attention.
Most of the people don’t really listen when someone else speaks. Often times they would just nod and wait for their turn, while mentally preparing the next statement about themselves. Sometimes that statement might not even be related to the topic that the other person was speaking about.
Bob Proctor said that:
We hear with our ears. We listen with our emotions
When we listen, we emotionalize the information that we receive from our conversation partner. This immediately creates a certain bond between both speakers, which allows clearer interaction, sympathy, and understanding.
Listening, and paying attention to the speaker, is called active listening. Active listening is the act of listening to a person and making the conscious effort to not only hear the words that the speaker is saying, but actively try and understand the message and feelings that he is trying to convey.
The co-active coaching model distinguishes between 3 levels of listening:
- Level 1: internal listening
- Level 2: focused listening
- Level 3: global listening
Level 1: internal listening
At this level the listener is actually focusing its attention on himself. He listens to his own inner voice. All though the listener hears the words being said, He is constantly aware of his own thoughts, opinions and needs. The listener hears the words and tries to figure out (consciously or unconsciously) how is the data that is being spoken relevant to him.
While the conversation takes place, and the listener occasionally nods, he might be thinking inside:
- “Wow, this happened to me yesterday!”
- “Is he done speaking yet?”
- “I’m so tired…”
- “What can I say to sound smart?”
This form of listening is the most common one, and everybody does it. There are plenty of times when this form of listening is required. For example, when someone asks you how is your day going or when a waiter asks for your order in a restaurant. It’s perfectly okay to be aware of your own opinions and wants. After all it is your needs that the waiter wants to know about.
Level 2: focused listening
At this level, the attention is focused completely on the speaker.
The focus is so strong, that the listener blocks any outside interference. This enables the listener to pick up the nuances of the conversation, and understand the message that is being conveyed better.
Just think about two lovers seating together and speaking to each other. When they speak to each other, both their attention is focused completely on each other. When one speaks, the other listens intently. The attention is so focused, that the world around them doesn’t interfere with their conversation. They are very receptive to each other, and to the tiny gestures each one makes. That is level 2 listening.
Level 3: global listening
This is the soft focus listening which focuses on the general atmosphere, and the energy in the surroundings. This awareness, or listening, enables the detection of the change in moods in the room and the shift of energy. It can detect the impact of what’s being said on the conversation partner, and add a whole new dimension to the conversation.
The phrase “there is an elephant in the room” is a great example to soft focus listening. Detecting the fact there is such an elephant, means that level 3 listening has been applied to detect that something is in the room, which no one’s speaking about. It is not necessary to know what that elephant is really about.
Performers such as comedians and actors regularly use this sort of listening to understand if their act is hitting its mark not. This sort of listening is also the one which make use of a person’s intuition rather than simply its ears.
So are you listening, or just hearing?
Each one of the levels we covered can be used by anyone. The great thing is, that you don’t need to learn anything to use any of the levels. You already know how to do it! Granted most of us don’t use level 2 or 3 regularly, but each and every one can train himself to consciously shift the focus of his own attention when in conversation, to understand the man standing in front us better, and really get what he is trying to say.
Robert McClosky, the famous children’s author once said:
I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
and he knew what he was talking about. Hearing our partner in conversation might make us understand the words he is saying, but it is only until we start listening, that we truly start understanding the people that we speak with.
Next time you speak with someone, try and see if you are just hearing him, or if you are truly listening. Let me know about it in the comments below!