Four levels of listening

When your friend starts to tell you a story about their trauma-filled day, do you normally listen to all the words they are saying–the drama, the emotion, “Can you BELIEVE he was such an IDIOT?!” etc, etc….

That’s fine. That would be listening at the Drama level on the DiSCO listening scale–and it can break the ice and help show empathy. But there are other ways of listening that can take you deeper in your friendship, and help your friend at the same time.

For example, you could listen at the Situation level. Where you allow the person to calm down and give the facts. Your friend may try to cover over some feelings, find some reasonable solutions, and get back to the status quo. Here are the facts, this is what happened, the basic deal. How do we move back to how things were as quickly as possible, maybe without anybody knowing that anything happened.

A deeper way of listening would be at the Choice level. At this level, you are listening for the choice your friend can make. If she were truly loving, what would she want to do? What are the options? Instead of saying “just fix it” we can say “Who do I choose to be in this situation?” even if the situation doesn’t change. This kind of listening opens a door into the deepest level.

And deeper yet is the Opportunity level. At this level, you know that there is a gift in the situation. You are waiting to see what is trying to happen–what new insights are available. What shifts in perspective, what peace. What is wanting to happen here? The bigger the drama, the greater the opportunity that is waiting to unfold.

What is the level we are listening from? Some people are good at pulling us in to the drama level. If we refuse, and always listen at the opportunity and choice levels, we can move much more quickly. How we listen, at what level, subtly shifts the focus of the conversation–and they find their gift.

Thanks to the teaching by Alan Seale – ICA facilitator

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