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Three Levels of Listening

Three Levels of Listening

Three Levels of Listening

Definition: Listening is a communication skill which can be graded into three levels;

  1. Pretending to listen.
  2. Listen with intent to reply.
  3. Listen with intent to understand.

Level one: Pretending to listen.

Pretending to listen is when we try to appear as if we are listening, when in reality, we are thinking about something completely different. We all do it sometimes. Some people do it most of the time.

Speaker says, "I don't like what the government is doing on taxes, do you?".

Listener says, "It's half past six".

Level two: Listening with intent to reply.

Listening with intent to reply is the most common form of listening. It has two distinctly different forms.

1. Listening in order to link your own narrative onto the speakers.

This is when a person tells you that they did something, which triggers a memory of something similar.

Speaker says, "I went surfing at Woolacombe beach last weekend"

Listener says, "As a kid, we used to holiday in Woolacombe every year. I love it there".

2. Listening in order to reply or disprove.

This is when a person gives an opinion and the listener attempts to dismantle it.

Speaker says, "I am going to buy an electric car in order to save the planet"

Listener says, "If you think electric cars are good for the planet, then you obviously have not done your research".

Level three: Listening with intent to understand.

This is the highest form of listening and is done least frequently. When using this method, we suspend our critical thinking and we ask more questions, in order to discover not only WHAT the person thinks, but also WHY they think it and HOW it makes them feel.

Consequently, this listening style is sometimes called "empathic listening".

Speaker says, "I am going to buy an electric car in order to do my bit for the planet"

Listener says, "Are you concerned for the state of the planet?" "What do you think individuals can do?" "How do you see things changing over the next five years?"

When listening with intent to understand, we ask questions, which encourages speakers to keep talking.

Good conversationalists don't have to say much.

Good conversationalists ask good questions which cause others to take the majority share of the conversation time.

Remember that when we are speaking, we are not learning.

We gain most information, only when we listen with intent to understand.

Communication Skills Training

Listening skills is just one aspect of our Communication Skills Training course. This course helps develop your communication skills so you can communicate with more clarity, confidence and persuasiveness.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Listening Skills

  • Communication Skills: Listen-out for What is Not Being Said
    When listening to another person who is trying to convince you to accept an idea, or opinion, it is often very important to listen out for what is NOT being said, ie you need to be concerned with what the other person is taking for granted.
    Read Article >
  • Three Levels of Listening
    Listening is one aspect of communication, and which can be categorised into 3 different levels. How do you listen? Do you pretend to listen, or do you listen with intent to criticise or disapprove, or do you listen to understand?
    Read Article >
  • How to ask the right questions
    How to ask the right questions Communication skills training includes how to ask the right questions. In any conversation, there is always the danger of some misinterpretation of the meaning of the message. The causes of the misinterpretation are many and each cause can be averted by asking the right question...
    Read Article >
  • How to Ask Good Questions
    People are judged by their questions rather than by their answers. Are you stuck in a rut, not progressing in your career? Learning to ask good questions is key to your learning and understanding. Here are some great questions you can use.
    Read Article >
  • How to Improve Active Listening Skills
    Active listening is a useful skill to master, not only you will gain a more in-depth understanding of what is being talked about, but Managers who are active listeners will develop a better working relationship with their team.
    Read Article >

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If you're looking to develop your Listening Skills, you may find this Communication Skills Training Course beneficial:

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