How do you usually listen?

Listening is a thing you do all the time. But have you thought much about the way that you listen?

Otto Scharmer’s work in Theory U gives us 4 different levels of listening. Each level has it’s place. Practice listening at each level to strengthen your attention and your relationships.

Most of the day you are downloading

This is like listening on autopilot. Here you are listening for info you already know or agree with.

Downloading confirms your existing opinions, judgements and beliefs. It doesn’t leave much room for surprise, connection or learning.

To get new ideas, use factual listening

Factual listening is still based in your own knowledge and beliefs, but your antenna are seeking information that is different from what you expect.

Factual listening engages your critical thinking, and moves your listening from your centre to the edge – paying attention to where your ideas interact with the outside world.

To strengthen connection, use empathetic listening

Empathetic listening lets go of what this information means for you as an individual, and allows you to connect with the experience of another.

Here your listening is moving beyond the boundary of your own identity, knowledge and beliefs, and you begin to listen from beyond yourself, from the position of another person.

To connect with the space of potential, use generative listening

With generative listening you move beyond yourself and others, and begin to listen to the space of possibility that lies ahead.

You begin listening to a future that is emerging.

This level of listening feels rather abstract and hard to grasp at first. Think of a great leader, teacher, or coach from your life – what makes these people great is often their capacity for generative listening.

What was it like to talk to them? No doubt, they listened empathetically to your current challenges. Chances are, they also had a sense of your future potential, and helped you connect with that potential and act on it.

They saw you not only as the sum of what you had already achieved, but what you were truly capable of.