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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Listening Differently to Help More

This week I spoke with a mom of three kids who all have learning disabilities. What a busy household! To top it all off, she has learning issues herself.  Listening to “everyone’s everything” can feel a bit overwhelming to her at times. No doubt it feels that way to you sometimes too. 

Listening differently to learn more

Learning issues can make an average challenge into a super challenge in the blink of an eye. How we listen to a challenge is the first step in handling the challenge in a positive way. Listening creatively and with clarity set us up to help in the best way possible.

Think about the last time you listened to a challenge your child, your spouse or a friend shared with you. What is the first thing that happened as you were listening? The most common answer is, “ I began to think of how I could help the person solve their problem”. This is a noble answer. However, what it really does is take your “ears” and mind away from the job of listening. This noble answer maybe not the best answer. 

Even a good listener can amp up the quality of listening by learning how to use Level 1, 2 & 3 listening. Use the skills below to hear more of what is happening whenever you find yourself listening. Each of the 3 Levels of Listening will provide different information. Try all three for a few minutes as a part of each conversation you engage. What different information do you learn as a result listening in different ways?

Listening at Level 1, 2 and 3

Level 1 listening puts attention squarely on us listening to our own thoughts judgments, feelings and conclusions about the conversation at hand. Is that what your conversation partner really wanted? Maybe not! Maybe they wanted help thinking through THEIR questions! What were their questions and their interpretation of what is happening? You don't really know if you are lost in your own interpretation. There is much to learn with greeting a story with questions instead of “telling” what you think. Level 1 listening only shares your thoughts about what you think is happening.

Level 2 listening, in contrast, has the attention of the listener with a sharp focus on the other person. Every word, emotion and shifting energy of the speaker has an impact on the listener. A great example of Level 2 listening is two lovers talking on a park bench. They appear as though the rest of the world has melted away. There is a lot of learning by the listener happening in this scenario.

Level 3 listening has the listener aware of everything that is happening in the space where the conversation is being held: the conversation at hand, sounds and actions around the conversation and how the listener and speaker are thinking and feeling. In other words, Level 3 incorporates parts of all three levels. There is a softer focus than the intensity of Level 2 and a partial attention to self as in the Level 1 conversation. Level 3 focus allows for non-verbal cues to be center stage and intuition to play a vital role. 

Improve your communication capacity by becoming familiar and actively engaging in level 1, 2 & 3 listening.  It will not take long to see the impact on how children, spouse and friends make choices, move themselves toward what they want and what they value all because of being heard differently. Listening deeply and creatively will better prepare you to truly make a difference. 

Parents, do you have questions raising your child with learning issues? We can help you raise confident, capable kids despite learning issues. Reach out for answers to your most perplexing questions today!

Becky Scott 
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