Monday Mornings with Madison


Think about the people you like to be with. Are they talking most of the time or listening? Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling really great, and then realized that the other person didn’t talk at all? You did all the talking, but you still feel great about the other person. Why? Because he listened to you.

Psychologists, doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals know they cannot give you advice unless they first ask you a lot of questions to gain a good understanding of your situation.

The Three Levels of Listening.

Level 1: The first level of listening is simply not to talk and to listen to what the other person says.

Level 2: This is a deeper level of listening in which you focus completely on the other person. This is not easy because people speak at a rate of 170 – 200 words per minute, and we think at a rate of 700-1000 words per minute. So, physically we can listen to the other person and at the same time use the extra space in our brains to think about how we can respond to him. In order to get to level 2 listening, we need to practice the skill of quieting our brains and keeping our full focus on the other person.

Level 3: The third level of listening is the deepest level of listening in which we become so focused on the other person that we pick up the non-verbal messages — the things that are behind the words — emotions, body language etc.

Tips for effective listening.

  • Put your agenda aside — in order to listen effectively you have to be open to whatever the other person says, even it is not what you want to hear. Before you can change their opinion you first have to understand what they think and feel. And, they have to feel that you really understand them before they will listen to your opinions.
  • Paraphrasing — if you repeat their words back to them when you ask questions, this shows the other person that you listened carefully to what they had to say
  • Listen for feelings — observe their body language. This will give you a lot of information about what’s behind the spoken word. Look for intensity. Are they emotional about it? Does their posture or facial expression change at a certain point in the conversation? When you learn to pick up these non-verbal clues you will increase dramatically your ability to build relationships — and help people make their buying decisions.
  • Ask for clarification — ask the other person to clarify their points. This will show them that you are sincerely interested in what they have to say. It will also give you more information about what they think.
  • Maintain eye contact — when you are really listening, you maintain eye contact with the other person. When you break eye contact it usually means that your mind went somewhere else, and people feel the shift in your focus.

Let’s use an example of a conversation to understand the different types of listening.

Level 1:

John: How was your trip to Florida?

David: It was great. The weather was perfect.

John: You know, last time I was there, it rained most of the week.

David: No, we had great weather.

John: You can’t predict the weather. That’s why I decided not to go back this year.

As you can see from this conversation, John is physically listening but at the same time he is thinking about himself. He is not really focused on David’s experience. This conversation can go on for a while with each person focused on himself and his memories. They will not build rapport from this conversation, and neither of them will feel good about the conversation.

Level 2:

John: How was your trip to Florida?

David: It was great. The weather was perfect.

John: What did you do?

David: We really enjoyed the beach. It’s just beautiful. And the sunsets are amazing.

John: Wow! That sounds great. Tell me more about it.

David: The first day we got there, we went right out to the beach. It was packed, but we found a good place to sit right down by the water. We were still there at sunset. It was an unforgettable moment.

John: And where did you stay?

David: Oh, that’s a whole story. We made reservations at this great…

As you can see from this conversation, John is really listening to David’s story. He keeps asking him for more information. At the end of this conversation they will have built rapport and both will feel good. David will feel that someone was really listening to him and was interested in his experience. John will feel great because he was the one that created that feeling in his friend, David.

Level 3:

John: How was your trip to Florida?

David: It was great. The weather was perfect.

John: I can see from your face that you really enjoyed it. Tell me more about it.

David: It was just great. The weather was perfect the whole time we where there. We really enjoyed the beach. And the sunsets are amazing.

John: Are the sunsets so different than they are here?

David: Absolutely! It was just unbelievably beautiful. I can’t put it into words.

John: Sounds like you are still picturing that the sunset in your mind.

David: You bet. I will never forget that. It was just so peaceful, and you know what else…

Although this looks very similar to level two, you will see that the conversation goes to a deeper level. After a few minutes they will have developed a strong rapport. At some point they both will slip into a small reverie because John is actually helping David to relive his experience, and John shares that experience with him by picking up on David’s emotions.

Talk to a partner that you are comfortable with and start practicing the different levels of listening. Share your experience with them after each conversation.

If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now. Woodrow Wilson

What would your life be like if you communicated with your spouse/kids/friends at level three most of the time?

© 2008 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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