"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Three Levels of Listening: Café Conversation, Part 3

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[This post is the last in a summer series of three posts on Three Levels of Listening. Want to learn more?  We invite you to read the first and second post, and download the tipsheet Three Levels of Listening.]

Imagine this:

You are sitting in a café with two colleagues that you consider friends and have just had an impactful conversation with one of these friends who was just notified by text that his brother was taken to the hospital for chest pains. After listening for a few minutes as your friend speaks about how important his brother was to him, he leaves with you and the remaining friend sitting in awkward silence at the café table.

As you sit in silence, you realize several things at once. One, you had completely ignored this friend during the previous conversation. Two, you actually don’t know this friend as well as the other one who just left the table. And three, you would like to call it a day and go home. So with this in mind, you completely ignore your inner urgings to either address the awkwardness or leave the café and instead launch into how nice the weather is this week and ask if your friend has any plans for the following weekend. As your remaining friend launches into a detailed account of how her dog is pregnant and about to deliver puppies your mind wanders. You hear words like “multiple colors” and “quiet corner” and are immediately reminded that you need to get flowers for the living room for when your parents visit on Friday. You then try to concentrate on what your friend is saying but as soon as you hear “trial run” and “low cost” you are reminded that you need to get vitamins because your iron is low…and that reminds you that your knees have been hurting from all the extra running you’ve been doing recently. And then you realize that your knees are hurting right now – better get those vitamins as soon as possible. And as you start writing down your growing shopping list you completely phase out your friend’s words and are now planning your own weekend activities. Meanwhile your friend is oblivious to your obvious lack of focus and attention.

After adding a few more items to your shopping list, you realize that your friend is winding down and that you both will be ready to head out the door soon. Yay! Can’t wait to get my shopping done.

Level One – Listening to Self

To review Part I of this blog series: there are many aspects to listening, and we are looking at listening from the viewpoint of three distinct levels. Level One is where you listen to what is happening inside of you. Level Two is where you listen to another person with focus and attention. Level Three is when you listen to the broader emotional field, or dynamic, around you. We all take in information on these three levels, but we are not always paying attention to all three levels. The story above is an example of Level One Listening. The two friends were more aware of their own thoughts than of what was happening with the other person.    

Imagine that you can turn a knob to fine tune your listening to pick up on the emotional field or dynamics happening within yourself. 

  • Think of a time in the recent past when you were very aware of, focused on, and in sync with your own thoughts, feelings and physical and spiritual self. What was that experience like?   
  • Now think of a time when you were very out of sync with your own wants, desires and needs. What was that like? 

Reflection

  • What benefit is there to being aware of and listening with focus and intent to yourself?
  • In a learning event, how might you use Level One Listening to enhance your learning experience? 
  • What do you do when you are distracted by thoughts in the middle of a conversation? Is it effective? Does it promote active listening or detract from it?
  • How comfortable are you with Level One Listening? 
  • As a leader, how might you use Level One Listening to lead more effectively? What kind of information will you glean from listening to your spirit, soul and body as a leader?

Practice

Let’s practice! Over the next week, twice a day spend about 7 minutes writing out (longhand) exactly what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing physically at that moment. What do you notice? What have you been thinking or experiencing for a long time but have not paid attention to it? What new awareness is showing up? What do you want to do about it?

Are you willing to take on the challenge? If so, please post your learning in the comments section below and let’s learn together what Level One Listening has to offer us this week!  

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Wendy Balman wendy@wendybalman.com is an ICF professional certified coach, a consultant and a coach trainer practicing in Chicagoland, IL, USA. Her passion is to provoke people to deeper learning and to grow their capacity to creatively address life’s challenges and opportunities with joy. 

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Three Levels of Listening: Café Conversation, Part 2

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[This post is the second in a summer series of three posts on Three Levels of Listening.  Stay tuned for the last post in this series, and download the tipsheet Three Levels of Listening in the meantime!]

Imagine this:

You have just attended a learning event, one you did not design, and you found it absolutely engaging and enjoyable. You met up with two colleagues, who you also consider friends, after the event and before you have even ordered coffee you share the words that are coming to mind that describe your experience at the event. It was like a “beautiful orchestra”, it was “musical”, “freedom” and “love”. Your friends describe their experience as well using words like “lively”, “friendly”, “intense”, and “peaceful.” What a great event!

You are now sipping your black coffee and reliving the enjoyment of the event with your friends when you notice a shift in the emotional field (the dynamic of the conversation) and sit up and look more closely at your friends. You realize that one of your friends has stopped talking and is looking down rather dejectedly. You’re surprised because this friend was so animated only moments before. You pause mid-sentence, take a breath, and ask your friend if everything is okay. Your friend sits quietly for a moment and then speaks in a low voice that he just got a text message that his brother was taken to the hospital with chest pains. You lean in to better hear your friend as he describes how important his brother is to him and how they had been making plans to go on an extended bike trip over the summer.

As your friend continued to speak about the trip and his summer plans, it was like the world around you disappeared and all you saw was your friend and what he was experiencing. The clatter of coffee mugs faded into the distance and the din of voices around you disappeared. It was just you and your friend.

The moment shifted almost as soon as it had begun as your friend decided to leave and head straight to the hospital. You say your goodbyes, offer your prayers and suddenly just two of you are left at the table.  

Level Two – Listening to Others

To review Part I of this blog series: there are many aspects to listening, and I’d like to draw your attention again to three distinct levels. Level One is where you listen to what is happening inside of you. Level Two is where you listen to another person with focus and attention. Level Three is when you listen to the broader emotional field, or dynamic, around you. We all take in information on these three levels, but we are not always paying attention to all three levels. The story above is an example of Level Two Listening when the two friends connected in a focused way and the world around them seemingly disappeared.   

Imagine that you can turn a knob to fine-tune your listening to pick up on the emotional field or dynamics happening within another individual.  

  • Think of a time in the recent past when you were very aware of, focused on, and in sync with another individual. What was that experience like? What happened to time…did it speed up? Slow down? 
  • Now think of a time when you were very out of sync with someone you really care about. What was that like?  

Reflection

  • What benefit is there to being aware of and listening with focus and intent to another individual?
  • In a learning event, how might you use Level Two Listening to enhance your learning experience? 
  • What colleagues do you naturally seem to be able to listen to at Level Two? What colleagues is it hard to get in sync with?
  • How comfortable are you with Level Two Listening? Why may this be so? 
  • As a leader, how might you use Level Two Listening to lead more effectively? What can you do to be more present (not distracted) and connected to the people you are talking with?

Practice

Let’s practice this week! What if you were to pick two people this week that you were going to practice listening to more intently? You know that you tend to rush ahead with your thoughts whenever you talk with these people. What would it be like to be fully present and listening without giving in to distracting thoughts?

Are you willing to take on the challenge? If so, please post your learning in the comments section below and let’s learn together what Level Two Listening has to offer us this week!  

Stay tuned for another post soon on Level One Listening.

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Wendy Balman wendy@wendybalman.com is an ICF professional certified coach, a consultant and a coach trainer practicing in Chicagoland, IL, USA. Her passion is to provoke people to deeper learning and to grow their capacity to creatively address life’s challenges and opportunities with joy. 

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Three Levels of Listening: Café Conversation, Part 1

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[This post is the first in a summer series of three posts on Three Levels of Listening.  Stay tuned for the remaining two posts in this series, and download the tipsheet Three Levels of Listening in the meantime!]

Imagine this:

You are at a learning event, one you did not design, and you listen intently to the facilitator and your peers as a lively discussion plays out like beautiful chords of music throughout the room. You are mesmerized as the voices rise and fall – sometimes softly, sometimes loudly – in a rhythm that seems to be led by an unseen conductor. You are drawn to participate in the group discussion as much as possible and speak your mind and share your wisdom, and questions, freely.

All of the sudden you are surprised to find that the event is over and the lights are flickering as a sign that it’s time to go. As you make your way out the door you are basking in what felt like an orchestrated musical event. You wonder to yourself, “What just happened?” - you can’t remember the last time you were so engaged.

You can’t wait to meet up with your two friends, who also attended the event, at a local café and discuss the experience. As the three of you arrive at the café and find an open table, you can barely wait to be seated before you burst with exuberance about the event. You use words like “orchestra”, “musical”, “beautiful”, “freedom”, and “love” to describe your experience. Your friends listen to your animated description and nod. They felt it too. They add words of their own like “lively”, “friendly”, “intense”, and “peaceful.”

You sit back in your chair and relive the enjoyment of the event with your friends.       

Level Three – Listening to the Emotional Field (of the Whole)

There are many aspects to listening, and I’d like to draw your attention to three distinct levels. Level One is where you listen to what is happening inside of you. Level Two is where you listen to another person with focus and attention. Level Three is when you listen to the broader emotional field, or dynamic, around you. We all take in information on these three levels, but we are not always paying attention to all three levels. The story above is an example of Level Three Listening as the three friends describe the emotional field they experienced at the event.  

Imagine that you can turn a knob and fine tune your listening to pick up on the emotional field or dynamic that is present in a family, team, or event.

  • Think of a time in the recent past when you were very aware of the dynamic around you and it made you uncomfortable. What words would you use to describe the emotional field in that experience?
  • Now think of a time when you were aware of a fun or joyful dynamic, like in the learning event story described above. What words would you use to describe the emotional field in at experience?

Congratulations, you just practiced honing your listening skills to capture and name the dynamic or emotional field that was present in your experience. You may have noticed that this skill is one you already have working for you. The purpose of this blog post is to draw your attention to it so you can strengthen it and use it more intentionally. Some people call the ability to name the emotional field accessing “intuition.” Others call it something they just know in their “gut.” What do you call it? 

Reflection

  • What benefit is there to being aware of and listening for the emotional field in a group situation?
  • In a learning event, once you pay attention to the emotional field, how might that help you deepen your learning as an individual? As a team?
  • What is the dynamic you anticipate you will be walking into at your next work meeting? What was the dynamic at your last meeting?
  • How comfortable are you with paying attention to listening to the emotional field? 
  • As a leader, how might awareness of the emotional field help you lead more effectively? What can you do to shift the emotional field to be more conducive to learning in a group setting?

Practice

What if you were to set an intention to listen to the emotional field of your family or workplace throughout this next week? You can do this by taking a break every two hours or so throughout the day and asking the question “What is the dynamic now?” Then consider what two or three words come to mind that describe the “vibe” in the room. Now that you have expanded your awareness of the current dynamic, how might that influence what you do next?

Are you willing to take on the challenge? If so, please post your learning in the comments section below and let’s learn together what Level Three Listening has to offer us this week!   

Stay tuned for another post soon on Level Two Listening.

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Wendy Balman wendy@wendybalman.com is an ICF professional certified coach, a consultant and a coach trainer practicing in Chicagoland, IL, USA. Her passion is to provoke people to deeper learning and to grow their capacity to creatively address life’s challenges and opportunities with joy. 

 

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