Did you know there are 5 different levels of listening?

von Marion Ehmann

I have spent most of my professional life among lawyers and it has always puzzled me how little we listen. This might be an occupational hazard, but, than again, quite some doctors and people working at hardware stores or banks seem to have the same problem.

Now that I am dedicated to training lawyers and other consultants to become better at what they do, this question looms even bigger. I couldn´t not agree more with Edward J. Burke, a communications consultant and a legal project management coach:

The most important element of communications is not self-expression but listening. […] It’s more important to ask diagnostic questions and to listen until you find out what the client really wants (sometimes, instead of what they say they want). Instead of talking, ask open-ended questions that tend to prompt them to do most of the talking (e.g., “Tell me more about … ” or “What makes this urgent?”). Of Counsel, July 2015 issue, Vol. 34, No. 7).

So that takes care of the open-ended questions part, but how do we become better at listening?

One way is being aware that there are (at least) five different levels of listening. Our ears come in five different sizes, so to speak:

Level -1: Listening in order to get a word in edgewise as soon as there is the shortest break (e.g. the other person breathing in). This is in fact not listening at all, so I call this Fake Listening. We find this kind of listening often in disputes and negotiations of either legal or everyday nature. In this mode we try to convince the other side of the beauty of our arguments. Does this ever work? Level 0: Listening in order to get confirmation for what I already know. Since I am not letting any new information in, I call it Pointless Listening ...Zum vollständigen Artikel

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