Hearing is easy. Every vertebrate that hasn’t suffered some genetic, developmental or environmental accident have been doing it for hundreds of millions of years. It’s built into our survival system, our alarm system, it’s our way to escape danger and pass on our genes.
But listening, really listening, is hard. Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of distraction, information overload and the need to be ‘heard’ first.
Some interesting stats
- People hear 1 in 6 words in a typical conversation
- 85% of what we know we have learned through listening
- Humans generally listen at a 25% comprehension rate
- In a typical business day, we spend 45% of our time listening, 30% of our time talking, 16% reading and 9% writing
- Less than 2% of all professionals have had formal education or learning to understand and improve listening skills and techniques
Imagine all the interpersonal difficulties that are created, the erosion of trust and the great ideas that are missed when we don’t know how to listen!
Luckily, we can train our listening just as with any other skill.
There are four levels of listening
- Habitual – When we listen from this level we listen for what we already know. This is based on our perception filters. Every second of every day our brains are bombarded with an overwhelming onslaught of information. It is the equivalent of trying to process 11,000 PowerPoint slides every second of every day. Clearly to process all that consciously would cause us to shut down. Our perceptual filters (frames of reality) are learned over time through our experiences and what we’ve been taught. These filters discard any information that doesn’t match current frames of reality. That means we are missing a lot of new information!
- Factual – This level goes beyond our habitual listening. First it’s an awareness that we are limited by our perceptual filters. It’s listening for new information that may not match what we already know. Consciously we listen for information that disconfirms what we think we know.
- Empathetic – At this level we listen from the perspective of the other person. What might they be feeling emotionally? Listening to what they are saying, what they aren’t saying and how they are saying it. It about actively put ourselves in their world. This type of listening engenders trust.
- Emergent– At this level we openly listening for the new innovative perspective or idea that emerges when we let go of wanting a particular outcome.
The authentic listening process
- BE STILL – Be present & open
“What can I connect to? What distractions do I need to be aware of?”
- EMPATHIZE – Listen intentionally
“What are they really saying? What are the feelings?” what aren’t they saying?”
- ACCEPT – Watch filters of judgment that come from habitual listening (YES/AND)
“What are your pre-conceived notions about this person & topic?”
- AFFIRM – Summarize the essence of what they’re saying! Don’t “parrot”
“Confirm you have really listened without imposing your perceptions”
Lorella is a Co-founder & Partner at 1-degree