The 3 Levels of Listening: Where Do You Fall?

Listening is a critical leadership skill. Listening creates connections, and connections allow us to relate to others. The most effective leaders have deep connections with the people around them and can easily talk to them about challenging or difficult topics.

Listening is also a form of communication. Talking and listening is the act of communication. If I don’t listen to what you say, we can’t have a conversation.

It is common knowledge that most of us are not skilled in listening, but listening is just that – a skill. Like any skill, once we know about it, learn how to do it and practice it, we can become much better.

And that brings me to the three levels of listening. Many of us fall into levels one or two, but our goal is level three.

Level One: Transient Listening

The first level of listening is transient listening. It’s one-sided and focused on me, the speaker. I am likely distracted, impatient and ask yes or no questions. You are not going to get much from the conversation.

Level Two: Transactional Listening

The second level is transactional listening. Now I am very focused on you, the speaker. I am listening so I can solve a problem for you. I’ll share ideas, provide advice and ask open-ended questions. It’s a much higher level of listening, but it’s still one-sided.

Level Three: Transformational Listening

The third level is transformational listening. It’s focused on you and me. We both want to learn more about the other person and create a connection. Because of that, we build on what’s said or inferred. Both of us are completely engaged. There are also times of silence, allowing the other person to reflect. This is very powerful, and this level of listening is worthwhile for both parties.

Over the next week, your goal is to pay attention to a couple of key conversations – one in your personal life and one in your professional life. How are you showing up in your listening skills? Are you showing up as a transactional listener? Transient listener? Transformational listener?

How can you upgrade your listening? Strive for level three, and notice the impact of transformational listening.

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