Communication – Received and Understood

We communicate with people every day. We write, we talk, and we listen. All are important, but of these three, listening is the one we often find the most difficult to do well. How we listen can have more influence on how other people perceive us than anything else. This is because listening demonstrates how interested we are in what someone is saying, and people appreciate us more when they know that we are genuinely interested in them.

There are five, so called ‘Levels of Listening’ which are:


We’ve all been on the receiving end of this from time to time. We’ve been saying something and while we’ve been speaking, noticed that the other person was totally distracted, perhaps reading notes, looking away and generally not listening at all. We have to repeat everything. We know how it feels!


This is almost as bad, but at first we may believe that the other person is actually listening to us. Only when we’ve finished speaking do we realise that they weren’t listening, and probably had their minds on something else entirely.


We are sometime aware that some of what we are saying is ‘going in’ but some is being completely ignored. We can never be sure which is which and may have to repeat the whole thing over again. Misunderstanding can so easily arise if someone is listening selectively.


This happens when someone really does appear to be listening. They have eye contact with us, perhaps they nod their head from time to time, and there are no evident sign that they are not focused on what we are saying. But this is not the same as the situation in which there are evident signs!


This is where the evident signs show up. Empathetic listening is sometimes called ‘Listening with the desire to understand’. People who are listening this way clearly demonstrate their interest in what you are saying. They ask follow up questions, they make brief comments on what you say, their body language tells you that they are really interested. You just know that they are listening with the desire to understand.

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