When it comes to listening, are you a dog or a cat? Dogs are born to listen, often with that whimsical head angle…cats, not so much. Dogs perk up whenever someone speaks to them and they listen intently. Cats can be great pets, but that ho-hum look they give us tells us our thoughts just don’t interest them. If you want to run a great meeting you should aim to be more of a “dog” than a “cat.”
Great facilitators must be expert listeners, yet most of us are not naturally great at listening. The good news is that we can improve! Let’s start by identifying five levels of listening –
1. “Ignoring” is a 1, as you would expect. It means you’re not listening at all.
2. “Pretend listening” is slightly better at a 2. It’s when we act like we’re listening, possibly looking directly at the person, maybe nodding our head, but we’re not hearing a word they’re saying.
3. “Selective listening” is when we only listen if we think the other person has something interesting to say. It’s what teenagers do. It’s part of their DNA. They hear “you can have the car…blah, blah, blah…here is some money for gas.”
4. “Attentive listening” is a 4. Now we are getting somewhere. When you are attentive, you are listening carefully but may be distracted by planning your response. (AKA – “Active listening”)
5. Empathetic listening gets the gold star at a 5. You are entirely focused on the speaker, listening to understand, rather than to respond or solve anything.
Your group knows what level of listening you are using. And you may discover they model what you are doing. If you want your group to leave with the right knowledge, you must use the highest level of listening skills, and expect it of others as well.