The 5 Levels of Listening: How To Be A Better Listener

Levels of Listening Be Better Listener

Active Listening is an important part of building a relationship. Listening is about the other person and it’s about giving what the other person needs. Mastering the levels of listening is an art and it requires a great deal of practice. Otto Scharmer and his team developed 4 levels of the listening model at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while he was observing the interactions between individuals at the organizational level.

The skill of listening is particularly valuable to leaders and coaches in order to understand and envision the highest future possibilities. It can go a long way once a person reaches the final stage of listening because it allows a person to pay attention to details. It requires a person to slow down, have patience, converse less, and pay attention.

Research has found that an average person listens at only about 25% efficiency.

It is important to maintain eye contact while listening, to assure the person that you are paying attention. Maintain your posture and relax while listening to the other person.

Listening is about connecting with other people on many different levels.

The levels of listening can be categorized into five Levels. They are as follows:

  1. Ignoring
  2. Pretend Listening
  3. Selective Listening
  4. Attentive Listening
  5. Empathetic Listening

Level 1: Ignoring

Have you ever ignored what the other person was saying, simply because you weren’t interested? The extreme bottom level of listening is ignoring. If you get distracted while listening to someone else they can get the impression that they are being ignored. For instance, when a person is addressing how they feel, you tend to fight back or interject which makes them feel ignored and that you are not listening to what they are saying.

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Level 2: Pretend Listening

This level is mostly seen in a face to face conversation. You are talking to someone and they seem distracted. When someone is talking on the phone, if they are pretending to listen, the replies you get are usually “I see” or “Ok” or “Uh-huh”. Usually, people can tell if you are distracted while listening.

Level 3: Selective Listening

In the case of selective listening, the listener only listens to things that interest them or if they agree with them. They tend to move on to other things immediately when they find that the current conversation isn’t interesting to them.

Level 4: Attentive Listening

This level of listening entails a person carefully listening to the other person. However, they tend to decide whether they agree or disagree while they are listening in order to determine whether they are right or wrong. The person tends to formulate his response while the other person speaks instead of paying attention.

It also involves paying attention to words that are being spoken by other people rather than understanding what they are saying.  The concentration should be on the verbal aspect than the non-verbal aspect.

In all of the four levels, we listen to offer advice from our perspective and not for the sole purpose of listening.

Level 5: Empathetic Listening

Empathetic Listening is an extreme level of listening. This level requires the person to actively listen and pay attention to what the other person is saying. They have to listen in order to understand what they are actually feeling. It is important to empathize with the other individual while listening. A person attempting to do empathic listening must have these four attributes:

  • Seeing the world as the other person sees it
  • Being non-judgemental
  • Being in touch with the other person’s feelings and being aware that they differ from your own
  • Communicating about what you understand about the other person feelings

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Sometimes listening levels can go beyond words and feelings. It is when we learn to form a connection with a person in such a deep way where you become generative with your hearing. It usually requires someone to be self-aware and be present with the other person.  When you listen to level 4, you tend to experience life as the other.


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The 5 Levels of Listening: How To Be A Better Listener
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