Listening and Noticing

Listening and noticing is so powerful

Revisiting Otto Scharmer’s 4 levels of listening
– downloading – listening from within our own story
– debating – listening from the outside, how I’m going to respond
– reflective dialogue – listening from the inside, subjectively with empathy, from the heart
– generative dialogue – listening from the whole of the system, communion, onenessFour types of attending and listening.

Listening 1 means to attend to what you already know (downloading); listening 2 means to recognize some new external facts (factual); listening 3 means to see a situation through the eyes of another (empathic). Finally, listening 4 means to sense the highest future potential of another person or a situation (generative). Each type of listening results in a different outcome and conversational pathway. In short: depending on the state of awareness that I operate from as a listener, the conversation will take a different course. “I attend this way, therefore it emerges that way.”

Four levels of Listening – Otto Scharmer – Theory U pages 11 -13

“In my years of working with groups and organisations, I have identified four basic types of listening:

“Yeah, I know that already.” The first type of listening is downloading: listening by reconfirming habitual judgements. When you are in a situation where everything that happens confirms what you already know, you are listening by downloading.

“Ooh look at that!” The second type of listening is object-focused or factual listening: listening by paying attention to facts and to novel or disconfirming data. In this type of attending, you focus on what differs from what you already know. Your listening has to switch from attending to your inner voice of judgement to attending to the data right in front of you. You begin to focus on information that differs from what you already know. Object-focused or factual listening is the basic mode of good science. You ask questions, and you carefully observe the responses that nature (data) gives you.

“Oh, yes, I know how you feel.” The third, yet deeper level of listening is empathic listening: When we are engaged in real dialogue, we can, when paying attention, become aware of a profound shift in the place from which our listening originates. As long as we operate from the first two types of listening, our listening originates from within the boundaries of our own mental-cognitive organisation. But when we listen empathically, our perception shifts. We move from starting at the objective world of things, figure, and facts into the story of a living being, a living system, and self. To do so, we have to activate and tune a special instrument: the open heart, that is, the empathic capacity to connect directly with another person or living system. If that happens, we feel a profound switch; we forget about our own agenda and begin to see how the world unfolds through someone else’s eyes. When operating in this mode, we usually feel what another person wants to say before the words take form. And then we may recognise whether a person choose the right word word or the wrong one to express something. That judgement is possible only when we have a direct sense of what someone wants to say before we analyze what she actually says. Empathic listening is a skill that can be cultivated and developed, just like any other human relations skill. It’s a skill that requires us to activate a different source of intelligence: the intelligence of the heart.

“I can’t express what I experience in words. My whole being has slowed down. I feel more quiet and present and more my real self. I am connected to something larger than myself.” This is the fourth level of listening. It moves beyond the current field and connects to a still deeper realm of emergence. I call this level of listening generative listening, or listening from the emerging field of the future. This level of listening requires us to access our open heart and open will – our capacity to connect to the highest future possibility that wants to emerge. On this level our work focuses on getting our (old) self out of the way in order to open space, a clearing, that allows for a different sense of presence to manifest. We no longer look for something outside. We no longer empathize with someone in front of us. We are in an altered state – maybe “communion” or “grace” is the word that comes closest to the texture of this experience that refuses to be dragged onto the surface of words.

You’ll notice that this fourth level of listening differs in texture and outcomes from the others. You know that you have been operating on the fourth level when, at the end of the conversation, you realise that you are no longer the same person you were when you started the conversation. You have gone through a subtle but profound change. You have connected to a deeper source – to the source of who you really are and to a sense of why you are here – a connection that links you with a profound field of coming into being with your emerging authentic Self.”

For more see

This entry was posted in Intentions, Reflections. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Listening and Noticing

  1. Nicky Grigg says:

    Thanks Mark – I’d be keen to be involved in local activities aimed at developing our listening/dialogue skills.

  2. Pingback: My answers to Rachel, Pennie and Phoebe’s 3 questions | Mark Spain's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s