Level 3 Listening

I find myself wondering how the dialog of today would be different if we moved to Level 3 listening?

Some background.

In our coaching training we talk about Active Listening. Active Listening involves the listener learning to participate in the act of listening. One type of Active Listening is the concept of the “Three Levels of Listening” adapted from the work of Henry and Karen Kimsey-House and their book, Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives.

Level 1 is a form of listening where you hear the words, but are really listening to yourself, your thoughts and your perceptions of the issue or topic a person is sharing. Though the words register, the meaning is processed through your grid.

Level 2 is listening where you are hearing words, and have disengaged your attitudes and perceptions so you are able to hear their words and at the same time determine how you will respond. Though you hear the other person talking, the focus still is often focused on processing their meaning and your response.

Level 3 listening is when you not only hear the words, have disengaged your attitude, perceptions and potential response, but you are focused on hearing and understanding what the other person is saying from their point of view. You are seeing their world, and their situation from their vantage point, and you are not preoccupied with your response.

These three pictures help depict each level of listening.

Level 1

Listening to their words… but but not hearing the other person… because you are actually
listening to yourself.

Level 2

Listening, hearing and assigning meaning… as you determine your response or answer.

Level 3

Listening, hearing and understanding the person because you see their world from their perspective. Response comes as an outgrowth of understanding.

The point:

What if we move from… listening in order to respond…

To listening in order to first and foremost understand.

Too many of our conversations and disagreements come because we are responding before we understand.


Terry coaches and mentors breakthrough for entrepreneurial, risk-taking leaders. He has authored several books on leadership and pioneered a variety of leadership development resources and processes with his organization, Leader Breakthru. Terry also serves as adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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