We listen and then we listen and lots of the time we don’t listen at all. What? Well, that is just the point. There are several levels of listening and each is more sophisticated than the other. We use the various levels in different social situations and some of us are more skilled than others. Listening is so important to communication, though, that it behoves us all to work to improve our skills. When we have poor listening skills we jump to conclusions, misinterpret and misunderstand what is being said. It takes a lot of work to clean up the mess we make when we don’t listen well.

There are actually five levels of listening.

  1. Level one is listening for our turn to speak. This can be very irritating to the speaker because he knows that the listener is not paying attention to anything but when he gets a chance to talk. This means that the conversation follows the listener’s agenda not the speakers’ agenda. An example might be when you are talking about a business matter and when you finish your thought the listener speaks up and asks how you enjoyed the party last weekend.
  2. Level two is when the listener does not really engage in conversation but when it is her turn she gives an example of her own experience. For instance, you might be saying that your son really enjoyed soccer camp this summer and the listener responds by saying that her son went last year and he didn’t like it much.
  3. Level three listening happens when the listener gives advice without finding out if the speaker wants to hear it. An example of this would be that you are saying that you are having a hard time with your teenager and the listener begins to tell you how to handle the situation.
  4. Level four listening takes place when the listener asks for more information. Now we are getting into real listening. In this case you might be saying that you have had some difficulty getting your manager to buy into your ideas about something and the listener asks you to tell her more about it.
  5. Level five listening is where the listener employs his intuition and sort of reads between to lines to hear the real issue beneath the words. Here you might be saying that you better not go out for drinks after work and the listener asks if you are worried about your kids being home alone. He hit the nail on the head and you admit that you really are worried about that and would rather go right home.

In normal conversation we often listen at the 1 – 3 levels. When we become more adept at listening and really make a difference is when we can listen at the 4 – 5 level.

Levels of Listening is copyrighted by Gary Copeland. All rights reserved. Used with permission.