Connective listening

This is listening of the highest order, and it’s the human listening that all of us crave. It’s listening into other people to discover what’s going on inside them. It’s listening on their terms, not yours. It’s understanding where people are coming from to establish genuine rapport.

To master the art of Level Four Listening, resist the urge to defend yourself, explain yourself, or offer quick fixes. You can help more effectively later, when the time is right, if you don’t pre-judge what another person needs (which might be very different than you think). Instead, remember that you are listening to learn.

Mark Goulston and John Ullmen discussing how to listen past your blind spots.

In both my personal and professional life, listening is something I’ve been working on improving. The four levels of listening that Goulston and Ullmen outline are definitely familiar. I have definitely been guilty of avoidance and defensive listening. On my good days, I hope that I’m capable of problem-solving listening.

Much of the advice they offer to master connective listening reminds me of the psychoanalytic practice of mirroring. It’s a technique, along with yes anding and the five whys, that I’ve been using to improve my listening, to get to the heart of a problem and to try to understand where people are coming from instead of jumping to conclusions.

The ultimate goal is to become a better collaborator, neighbor and friend.