Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends & Influence People “that one can win the attention and time and cooperation of even the most sought-after people by becoming genuinely interested in them” (p. 59). Carnegie suggests expressing this interest in others by giving them “time, energy, unselfishness and thoughtfulness” (p. 60). He goes on to tell a story about a salesman who saved his account because he was present each day and sought to know everyone, not just the powerful people. Through the anecdotal evidence Carnegie presents, what he doesn’t explicitly say is that listening to others is paramount to expressing genuine interest. I could argue that without truly listening to what other people are saying, we can never be genuinely interested in them.

When it comes to creative work, it is crucial that the artist and professional learn to listen to their customers and benefactors. But did you know there is more than one type of listening?

In Co-Active Coaching, a book about professional coaching, the authors set the stage for the different ways we listen: “There are two aspects in coaching. One is awareness. We receive information in what we hear with our ears, of course, but we also listen with all the senses and with our intuition…. The second aspect is what we do with our listening. This is the impact of our listening on others” (p. 33).

Three Types of Listening: Internal, Focused, and Global

With this understanding of listening with our senses and responding in kind, the authors describe three levels of listening: Level I – Internal Listening, Level II – Focused Listening, and Level III – Global Listening.

Level I – Internal Listening

When we are engaged in Level I listening, we are focused on ourself and what the information we are hearing means to us. We are listening to what someone else is saying for the purpose of understanding and connecting the dots.

Level II – Focused Listening

Moving beyond Level I listening means that we transition from seeking to understand what is being said, to listening to what is being said by the other person. There becomes “a sharp focus on the other person….There is a great deal of attention on the other person and not much awareness of the outside world” (p. 35). Instead of worrying that you aren’t understanding, you listen for “empathy, clarification, collaboration” (p. 36).

Level III – Global Listening

While Levels I and II focus on the what is being verbally communicated, Level III listening is about accessing your intuition and other external stimuli to get a sense for what is not being directly communicated. This could be your subject’s body language, the temperature, energy levels, eye contact.

Experiment

Next time you are listening to a customer, a friend, or a loved one, observe the level of listening you are engaged in and consciously try to change to a different level. If you are only thinking of yourself (Level I), change your focus to your subject and listen to what is being said (Level II).

Most importantly, note how the different levels of listening impact your relationships.