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The Different Levels of Listening

Listening is one of the essential ingredients in effective communication.

When engaged in conversation, it is very easy to pay little to no attention to what the other person is actually saying. We can easily become distracted by other thoughts and things which are happening around us, or thinking about what we are going to say next.

Let us consider breakdown in percentages of the various common elements involved in communication.

40% – Listening
35% – Talking
16% – Reading
9% – Writing

Thus, we can see that listening is indeed an important communication skill which has to be learnt.

Many people believe themselves to be good listeners, but in reality, there is always substantial room for improvement. Tests have shown that, on average, normal adult human beings only really hear ONE THIRD of the words spoken to them.

All of us listen in different ways at different times. We listen better in some situations than in others. For example, some people listen effectively in the job, but stop listening when they get home. Each level of listening requires a certain level of concentration and sensitivity. These levels are general categories into which people fall.

Depending on the situation or the person, these levels may mix together. In this article, i have categorised the levels of listening into 3 different levels. As we move from level 1 to level 3, our potential for understanding, retention and effective communication increases. We began to develop our listening style very early in life. As we grow older, we continue to strengthen our habits and patterns.

How many of us give any thought to our personal listening style? A systematic classification of the different levels of listening may help you to evaluate your listening approach in most situations.

Level 1

Listening on and off: Tuning in and tuning out: Being aware of the presence of others, but mainly paying attention to yourself.

Half listening: Following the discussion only long enough to get a chance to talk.

Quiet, passive listening: Listening, but not responding. Little effort is made to listen; actually, hearing is going on but very little real listening is going on. Often, a person at this level is making believe that he is paying more attention while really, he or she is thinking of other things. They are generally more interested in talking, rather than listening.

Level 2

Hearing sounds and words, but not really listening: At this level, people stay at the surface of communication and do not listen to the deeper meaning of what is being said. They are trying to hear what the speaker is saying, but they are not making the effort to understand what the speaker means. They tend to be more concerned with content rather than feelings. They do not really participate in the conversation.

This level of listening can be dangerous because misunderstandings may occur since the listener is only slightly concentrating on what is said. At level 3, it is obvious that the person is not listening by the way the person acts; however, at level 2, this is harder to tell and the speaker may have the false sense that the other person is really listening, when he is not.

Level 3

Active Listening: At this level, people try to put themselves in the speakers place – they try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Some characteristics of this level include: taking in only the main ideas, acknowledging and answering, not letting yourself be distracted, paying attention to the speaker’s total communication – including body language.

Active listening requires that you listen not only for the content of what is being spoken but, more importantly, for what the meaning and feelings of the speaker are. You do this by showing that you are really listening both verbally and nonverbally.

It is ironic that the passive skill of listening is a core component of good communication. Listen skills is an important step to developing your communication skills. Posts like “Establishing Effective Communication Skills” highlights the importance of listening skills in communication. Interpersonal skills are indeed important in our everyday life. With time and practice, you will definitely before a more effective and successful communicator.

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