How to Listen with Respect So You Can Get Respect
Listening - true, heart-to-heart listening - is so rare these days.
That's why when you master the three levels of listening, you'll become influential, respected and magnetic to the people you engage with.
The three levels of listening is a transformational concept that really changed everything for me, as a coach, trainer and as a person who relates to other people. I learned this concept from Co-Active Coach Training, and you can read about it in their book Co-Active Coaching.
If you want to become an influential leader and if you want to create durable agreements as the outcome of your negotiations, you need to listen.
Listening - true, heart-to-heart listening - is so rare these days. Therefore it is highly valued. People will respect you. People will be drawn to you. People will come to agree with you if you listen well.
Level 1 - Me Me Me
You're probably very familiar with this level. We all are. Basically, it's when you listen while thinking, "How does this relate to ME?" "What smart thing can I say to impress the other person?" "How can I interrupt?" "How can I make MY point?"
"How can I talk about ME, ME, ME?"
It's when people are kinda listening - but not really - and really they're just waiting for their turn to speak.
I'd say about 95% of the time we're listening at level 1. I think it's because we all want to be heard so badly. The need to be heard keeps us at the most basic level of listening, at level 1.
The thing is, listening is like respect. You don't get listened to by forcing your point on other people. You get listened to when you listen to other people. Like how you get respect by giving respect.
Level 2 - Curious and Listening into the Heart of the Other
It's when you're not just listening to the words, but you're also curious about the emotion behind the words. You're curious about what's not being said. You're curious about the connection between what IS being said and HOW it is being said.
So you're not just listening with your ears. You're taking in the speaker with your senses, with your eyes.
I once read that 90% of the information that the brain processes is visual.
That's why when you communicate, you want to communicate in such a way that your facial expression and body language are dovetailing what you're saying.
Often we feel one way but say another. If someone asks me, "Will you go to the movies with me?" and I respond with reluctance in my voice, you can probably tell that I don't actually want to go to the movies.
So how do you engage the other side when you're listening at level two? It's really good to clarify and confirm what you're hearing and seeing. Is there a connection? Or is there a disconnect? What is the underlying emotion?
Start with sentences that start with "It seems that..." "I hear that..." or "It sounds like..." And then you invite the speaker to clarify or confirm by asking, "Where am I wrong?"
To go back to the movies scenario, if someone asks me, "Will you go to the movies with me?" and I respond, "Sure...," and if they were actually curious and listening at level two, they may respond by saying, "Hmm... It sounds like from the tone of your voice that you're not all that excited about the idea of going to the movies. Where am I wrong?"
To which, I might say, "You know, you're not wrong. I'm not all that excited about going to the movies, I'd much rather stay home and read my magazine." Now we have understanding.
Listening at level two and asking, "Where am I wrong?" is a powerful strategy that I recommend for both conflict resolution and negotiation.
Listening at level two is powerful, because it will help you gather information, understand the other side, and create a bond. When there is a bond and the other side feels they've actually been heard, transformations can happen.
Level 3 - Global Listening, Reading the Room
Influential people are adept at level three listening. Stand-up comedians, public speakers, CEOs - people who are in tune with what is going on in the room - listen at level three. They ask, "What is here right now, in this room?"
In the Co-Active Coaching book, the authors described level three listening as "listening to the radio waves."
That's a really cool metaphor. But how do you listen to the radio waves? I mean, they're silent.
I think what the authors are referring to is the ability to intuit what's going on. You feel the radio waves with your intuition.
How do you communicate this? How do you know that you're listening at level three?
It's not very hard, actually.
Let me give you a vivid example.
I've been watching "Queer Eye" on Netflix, and I notice that every episode starts with the Fab Five - the five gay guys who are going to transform and make over a straight guy - going into the straight guy's house. They have this rambunctious, high-energy interaction where they are going through the straight guy's closet, trying on his clothes, making funny comments, and being goofy.
So what's going on in that room? What is the level of energy in that room?
I'd say it's high energy. It's playful, funny, a little uncomfortable, and awkward for the straight guy. There's a bit of tension but it's also really fun to watch.
If you were in that room, how would you feel the energy and how would you articulate it?
Then at the end of the episode, the Fab Five do what coaches would call acknowledgement. They sit down with the straight guy. They say, "Okay, so this is the last conversation. We want you to know that you're beautiful inside. You are powerful. You can do this. You are capable of change."
Often what happens is that there is open vulnerability. There is real love in that room. I get the chills just thinking about it. Every time I watch that segment in the show, it brings me to tears.
What's going on in that room? There is love. There is this melting of the hearts. You can see it. You can feel it. You know it.
Today, I challenge you to check in with yourself when you're engaged in conversation or when you are in a room full of people. Are you engaged in level one or level two?
Then tap into your level three and into your intuition. Ask yourself, "What's going on in this room? Is there high energy? Is it low? Is it anxious? What's going on?"
You will realize that you are capable of listening at a higher level, and when you tap into that you'll become a more influential person. People will feel that they've been heard and that they've been respected. And when people feel that they've been respected, they will respect you.