5 Levels of Listening

Different types of listening will yield different results. If we only hear what we want to hear we will not understand what the other person wants to communicate to us. We lean towards listening from our own perspective with the intent to respond based our own experience.

This simple diagram shows how to move from surface to deep listening.


Arrow point downwards


Arrow point downwards


Arrow point downwards


Arrow point downwards

Deep Empathic


Cosmetic = listening at a superficial level. You’ve got the gist of what is being said and the subject matter but then your internal voice starts up and your attention drifts…what’s happening over there… Did I send that email? Where’s the link for the next Zoom meeting?

Selective = key words spark your attention. You listen to the bits of the communication that you want to, using those sparks to start formulating what you want to say in response. We’re not really hearing the meaning behind the words as we’re too busy making assumptions and judgements.

Conversational – you start hearing things more receptively as a two-way experience; you are engaged, thinking, talking, however you are hearing things as an invitation to express own opinion and interpreting the message in your own way.

Active = listening to see where the ‘shared’ is; can you apply what the person is saying to your own experiences to enable a purer understanding. You concentrate, pay attention, ask questions to clarify intent and meaning; and you let them finish what they need to say without interruption.

Deep Empathic = now you are really focused on the speaker, the meaning of what they are communicating, spoken and unspoken. You listen to filter emotion, hearing what is being expressed at a deeper level. Your awareness is completely on the speaker; you have a lucid appreciation of their world and their perspective.