5 LEVELS OF LISTENING
1. Ignoring Level. Often a problem because of lack of concentration, attention, compounded by the presence of real or imagined distractions. Usually, the eye movements give this away with the listener glancing somewhere else not because one is listening but because one is not paying attention. A funny t-shirt print says it loudly: I am not deaf. I am ignoring you!
2. Pretending to Listen Level. In this instance, we are giving eye contact. Our non-verbal signals say we are listening, but we’re really not. Often, we blame our “failing memory” as the culprit. True, sometimes. But also, it may be good to check whether we’re listening or simply pretending to listen.
3. Selective Listening Level. In this level, you pick out only what is pleasant or what you agree with, or the opposite, depending on what you need, and therefore what you pay attention to. In the context of working relationships, for example, you may receive affirmations and corrections from your caring boss. While the affirmations are spoken, you are very attentive. But the moment the “corrections” come up, that’s when you do your selective listening. So you are not nearly as attentive and you are not nearly as attuned to what your boss is saying. Such that in the end of the meeting, all that matters to you are the “corrections.” You see examples of this in many of those who did not make it in the American idol auditions. Usual reactions of those turned down highlight the “criticisms” they received and not the “affirmations.”
4. Attentive Listening. It’s giving the person our attention. It’s trying to catch what they say.
5. Empathic/ Active Listening. This means that you go beyond the words that are spoken. We try to get the feelings. Peter Drucker said, “Real communication is when we learn to find the meaning between the words. This is the toughest form of listening, because it demands a lot of discipline.
√ Where are you in this scale of listening? We are invited by God to move towards empathic listening, because this is the first condition of genuine loving.
EMPATHIC / ACTIVE LISTENING
√ This is the Chinese symbol for ‘to listen’. The left side of the symbol represents an ear. The right side represents the eyes and undivided attention and underneath this there is the heart. The Chinese believe that you need to use your eyes, ears and heart, and give undivided attention to really listen to what is being said to you.
√ This symbol tells us that to listen we must use both ears, watch and maintain eye contact, give undivided attention, and finally be empathetic. In other words we must engage in active listening!
√ Active listening is a skill taught to teachers and police officers, counselors, ministers, rabbis and priests. It is a skill we would all do better having learned, practiced. To begin being an active listener we must first understand the four rules of active listening.
√ Dan Wilkins, a person with disability and a disabilities advocate explains the Chinese kanji, termed as Ting. He says,
“What does it mean to listen? In our fast-paced ‘drive-thru’ cost-cutting downsizing gameboy world, the Chinese kanji, ‘Ting’, representing the verb ‘to listen’, is significant in that it explains the difference between simply hearing and truly listening. By integrating representations of not only our ears but of our eyes, our heart, and the selfless act of undivided attention, the Chinese have truly captured the essence of listening.”
THE FOUR RULES OF ACTIVE LISTENING
♥ 1. SEEK TO UNDERSTAND BEFORE SEEKING TO BE UNDERSTOOD.
√ When we seek to understand rather than be understood, our modus operandi will be to listen. Often, when we enter into conversation, our goal is to be better understood.
√ We can be better understood, if first we better understand.
√ We have to listen to the other from the frame of reference of the other – not our own. BUT we need to be emotionally strongto do this.
♥ 2. BE NON JUDGMENTAL.
√ Empathetic listening demonstrates a high degree of emotional intelligence. There is a reason kids do not usually speak with adults about drugs, sex, and rock and roll. The kids already know what the adults have to say. Once a child knows your judgment, there is little reason to ask the question unless the intention is to argue.
√ If we would speak to anyone about issues important to them, we need to avoid sharing our judgment until we have learned their judgment. This empathetic behavior is an indicator of emotional intelligence.
♥ 3. GIVE YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION TO THE SPEAKER.
√ Remember how Jesus gave undivided attention to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10); Jesus listened to him, causing Him to stop in front of him; Jesus looked up at him and invited Himself into Zacchaeus’ home!
√ Remember, too, that the minimum of Love is Justice. Justice is giving rightly what is one’s due. We determine what all persons are basically due by their simply being persons by looking into the nature of the term person: per + sonare, i.e., “to sound through” – to communicate.
√ Giving undivided attention to a person is allowing the person to realize his / her personhood. That is somehow the sense of what we say: “The first responsibility of love is to listen.”
♥ 4. USE SILENCE EFFECTIVELY.
√ The final rule for active or empathic listening is to effectively use silence. Too often a truly revealing moment is never brought to fruition because of an untimely interruption. Some of the finest police interrogators, counselors, teachers, confessors and parents learn more by maintaining silence than by asking questions.
√ As an active or empathic listener, silence is a very valuable tool. DO NOT interrupt unless absolutely necessary. Silence is indeed golden especially when used to gather information as a listener.
√ Of course, this rule of empathic listening is foundational in our Life of Prayer! Huwag makalimot manalangin, magnilay at tumahimik.
“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.”
– Mother Teresa