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The Big Miss

In my article about blank-mindedness, I wrote of engaging others with a blank mind, which is different from an open mind. Blank-mindedness requires a shift in my focus of attention. I must take the focus off of myself (my agenda, my outcome, my wants) and place my full focus and awareness onto the other.

We don’t do this very often, do we?

I’ll illustrate with an example. I recently overheard a conversation between two co-workers whose company is going through a re-organization and probably layoffs.

Co-worker 1: “I have to re-apply for my own job.”
Co-worker 2: “At least you have a job to apply for. My job is completely going away. I have to apply for other people’s jobs!”
Co-worker 1: Yeah, that stinks. I’m really stressing over this.
Co-worker 2: No kidding. Me too! I have no idea if I even have a job anymore.

This back and forth format is pretty typical. I say something, then you comment on what I’ve said, with your attention on your own perspective, opinion, and how what I’ve said relates to you. Not necessarily wrong, yet a BIG MISS.

What Big Miss?

Validation. Empathy. Connection. Understanding.
Four gifts that we all need to give and receive daily. When we give and receive these four gifts everyday, life feels resonant, in tune, having a sense of “rightness” and fulfillment.  But that’s for another article…

What I want to convey to you in this article is how to avoid the “Big Miss” through a shift in our focus of attention. Through, what we call in coaching, Level 2 Listening.

Contrast: Level 1 Listening vs. Level 2 Listening

Level 1 is internal listening.
My awareness is on myself. I’m listening to the words of the other person through a filter called “What does this mean to me?” My awareness is on MY thoughts, reactions or feelings.

Example Level 1 Responses:

  • I know what you mean…
  • I had a similar experience…
  • Here’s what I would do…
  • What you need to do is…
  • I hate when that happens!

Not necessarily wrong. But it misses the opportunity to validate, empathize, and connect with another.

Level 2 listening helps us take our conversations to a new level. A level that creates deeper connection, new understanding, is engaging and enlivening, and builds trust.

Level 2 is Focused Listening.
My awareness and attention is fully focused on the other. I listen not only to their words, but to their tone, expression, body language, energy, mood, emotions. I am detached from my own thoughts, opinions, agenda. How?? You’ll find a few ideas here.

The key to level 2 listening is a presupposed genuine interest in and care for the other – curiosity about him as a human being or about her experience of the situation. You are no longer trying to figure out THE answer, or your next brilliant statement. You are simply and wholeheartedly LISTENING.

Example Level 2 Responses:

  • I hear your frustration. What options do you see?
  • How did ______ impact you?
  • What do you need in this situation?
  • Where does that feel most aligned for you? Or Where does that feel most out of balance for you?
  • I sense you have a lot of energy around this idea! What’s the significance for you?
  • Where would you like to go with this now?

Level 2 Listening is a skill that comes surprisingly naturally once we’re aware of it. Listening in this way and focusing our attention completely on the other feels authentic, feels true. It reminds us what we already know about how we humans are meant to interact with each other. With understanding. With empathy. With connection.
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De Yarrison

De is a certified professional Coach, Teambuilder and Facilitator of positive change. She is an adventurer in the world of relationships, blazing new trails of positive expression, resulting in happier leaders, employees, workplaces (and families).
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This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Great post, as usual, De! As I was reading your first example (Level 1), I thought, “that seems to be a pretty normal response, probably one I’d even give!” and then I read your suggestions for Level 2 responses. What a difference those could make. I see the empathy and understanding so much more in those responses and think they make for a much more positive connection.

    1. Thanks Jess. Level 2 listening & responding has certainly had a big impact in my relationships. When I first became aware of this concept, I remember noticing (with surprise) how often I focused on myself while listening to someone else!

  2. De, while I read this when you sent it, I wanted to read it again for our coaching session on Monday. This is great “food for thought” and I appreciate you sharing as it certainly gives me reason to ensure I am listening at the right level.

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