Listening is a mindset and a behavioral pattern. Most of us can listen and listen really well when we want to, especially if our life is depended on the result of listening. Then why is listening such a big issue in our daily communications? Because we don’t always consciously choose to listen.
There are three levels of listening:
- Me-Centered – the listener’s mind is preoccupied by her own thoughts. Only her body is present.
- Topic-Focused – the listener pays attention to the topic of discussion. Her body and mind are both present.
- Full-Presence – the listener focuses on the topic, the speaker, the unspoken words and the context. She listens with all of her – body, mind, heart and soul.
Some of us are chronic level 1 listeners. Some of us slip to level 1 when we are in an argument, too focused on self-interest instead of mutual-interest. Our propensity of proving ourselves right or important is often a reflection of our needs to be acknowledged, appreciated and accepted – a behavior driven by our subconscious. It is challenging to focus on others when we have unmet needs of our own or believe we do. What we really need is realigning our inner world instead of acquiring another skill.
When we listen at level 3, we become compassionate listeners – selflessly giving our full attention to the speaker and his interest. This type of listening is utterly flattering. It makes the speaker feel completely accepted, appreciated and understood. When this happens, we build bridges. We create trust, intimacy and healing.
In fact, how we behave in conversations is how we behave in relationships. If full-presence is what we want to receive, give it first – to ourselves and others. It is a choice we can make every single time.