I’m always on the lookout for good listeners! Usually I’m on the other end…asking people about their lives and listening carefully as they launch into their stories. It’s as I have “You talk; I’ll listen” tattooed on my forehead!
Listening carefully uses a lot of energy and can wear me out. After an hour or so, the introvert part of me is screaming for relief, for time to be quiet and regroup. In those moments I need to listen to myself.
Then there are times when I need someone to listen to me. For years I paid therapists, spiritual directors, and coaches for this purpose. It’s rare for me to find a person who is able to take the time and energy to be truly empathic, simply to listen to me with care and without judgment. It takes practice, as many spouses or parents know first-hand!
I have found that there are three main levels of listening. Where do your listening skills lay?
First there is “casual listening.” Some call it “small-talk” when we engage in friendly chatter. We usually listen to television, radio, or music at this level, unless something “hits” us emotionally or grabs our attention. Casual listening often motivates tweeting, posting, and messaging. We exchange information, superficial feelings (LOL), and expect some give and take. On this level we’re able to be snarky and sarcastic, humorous and ironic, or serious and polemical and don’t always expect to be taken seriously.
The second level is “active listening.” We “lean into” the individual who is sharing something important about their lives. We listen not just to words, but to the deeper meaning behind them. We try not to be self-conscious and focus entirely on the other as the only person in the world. We pick up cues that tell us what’s really going on. We can then ask questions to help them get to the heart of the matter.
This second level of listening is often missing from our lives. Either friends are too distracted or are preoccupied with their own opinions and advice. Some habitually play a game of “one-upmanship,” as they try to outdo whatever is shared by their more “amazing” story. When I can’t find someone to listen to me I feel profoundly lonely; how about you?
The third level is “intuitive listening.” Here we listen with our hearts. We look for the unspoken clues in the one sharing. They are often obscured and are like crumbs dropped along a path through a forest. Emotions, body language, changes in attitude or in tone of voice are thresholds into this mysterious realm. In intuitive listening we touch the transcendent and discover the leading of the Spirit.
Not everyone is good at third level listening. It’s a skill, an art, but most of all a gift. Those wired as highly sensitive in particular often possess this powerful intuition and empathy. With them we can read hearts and souls. We feel the speaker’s wounds and deep desires, often hidden from even from them. I use the second and third levels of listening a great deal in my life coaching and in spiritual direction. They are powerful tools through which I help people transform, deal with change, and set priorities.
What about you? Which levels of listening are you aware of using? Who’s listening to you at a deeper level? How has effective listening made a difference in your relationships and career?
© Copyright Michael Parise 2017
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
Want Michael to speak for your next event? Or hire him as your personal executive Life Coach to improve your relationships at home and at work? Call 813-444-9641 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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