To invite genuine buy-in and engagement, we need to listen with a strong personal motive to learn and understand. But we have a “blind spot” in our brains that gets in the way. What we hear is easily distorted with our own needs, biases, experiences and agenda, even when our intentions are good. We often hear what others say without understanding what they mean. We hear what it means to us, not what it means to them.
We outline four different levels of listening, and the first three fall short of what’s needed for achieve real influence.
Level One: Avoidance Listening = Listening Over
Listeners who listen over others are the people who say, “Uh huh,” while clearly showing no interest in what the other person is saying. They look preoccupied, and they usually are. Sometimes they don’t even stop checking their e-mail or texting on their phones while they’re “listening.” Level one listening can annoy, exasperate, or even infuriate the person who’s talking.
Level Two: Defensive Listening = Listening At
This is listening with your defenses up, preparing your counterpoints while the person is talking. It’s being quick to react and slow to consider. They’re often seen as high maintenance, and over time, people avoid them because they’re exhausting. This is the kind of listening that prompted Mark Twain to say, “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses.”
?????????Level Three: Problem-Solving Listening = Listening To
??This is listening in order to accomplish things. Problem-solving listeners listen in order to move things forward. If people want your solutions, this is the right approach. But people will feel frustrated, misunderstood and even resentful if you presume to offer “fixes” they don’t want or need.
Level Four: Connective Listening = Listening Into
This is listening of the highest order, and it’s the human listening that all of us crave. It’s listening into other people to discover what’s going on inside them. It’s listening on their terms, not yours. It’s understanding where people are coming from to establish genuine rapport.