There are multiple ways to engage in conversations. Each of these strategies has a place in your life. It is important, however, to apply the appropriate strategy to the current situation. This requires you to be aware of what strategies are available to you and to listen to know which strategy is the right one for the conversation.
Listening helps you relate to others. Improving your listening skills can help you feel more connected to people and makes it possible to understand their situation.
Once you understand them, you can engage with them in a manner that meets their needs and creates positive dialogue, even when the conversation is difficult or when you disagree.
Lesson 7.1: Ladder of Listening
• How do the different levels on the ladder of listening relate to conversations with others?
• What are some patterns
of ineffective listening in conversations?
The key to communication is the ability to listen. In this unit, you will learn about the ladder of listening.
Essential Reading: Ladder of Listening
The ladder of listening provides the framework for understanding what people should be paying attention to in a conversation. Starting at the bottom, each rung of the ladder represents a level, or stage, of listening.
Rung 0 (bioreaction): If you are at zero, you are not on the ladder. If you are in bioreaction, you are not listening. How do you get control back from the amygdala? Stop the assumption, take a breath, check your feelings, and be aware. It comes down to using your mind.
Rung 1 (content): If you want to get on the ladder of listening, the first thing you must do is listen to content, or the facts. If you want to get out of bioreaction, you must get curious. Listen for content (data).
Rung 2 (compassion): What is listening for compassion? It is putting yourself in the shoes of others. It means to feel what is being said in your body; it means that you are listening for the feelings and needs of others, which will give you insight into their purposes and concerns. Sometimes you can feel other people’s feelings. Have you ever been in a room with an angry person? What does that feel like?
Rung 3 (essential purpose): Essential purpose is listening for people’s needs, concerns, or purposes. It is the essence of what people have to say, or their intended meaning. You could just ask for their purpose, but sometimes they are not ready to talk about it (or do not know). So, you ask yourself the following:
• What is behind all of this?
• What is the essence of what they are saying?
• What are they trying to communicate?
• What is important to them?
Rung 4 (intersection): Places of intersection are where you find things in common with the other party. They are where the reason you are in the conversation and the reason the other people are in the conversation come together. If you can discover their needs, purposes, or concerns and how they intersect with yours, you can create win-win outcomes. You can create success and satisfaction in what you are doing together.
Reflection: Which Rung Am I On?
After analyzing each rung on the ladder of listening, did you notice any patterns in your conversations? Think about a recent conversation you have had. Then either answer the following questions on a piece of paper or download “Reflection: Which Rung Am I On?” to record your thoughts.
• Which rung on the ladder of listening do you think you were on? Why?
• How did that conversation go?
• What could you have done to improve that conversation?
How you listen and communicate is absolutely within your control. It is important to note that even though you cannot change other people, you can influence them by the choices you make. You will find value by suspending judgment, recognizing needs, and responding appropriately.
Lesson 7.2: Conversation Meter
• What are the different levels of engagement in conversations?
When you engage in any conversation, you have an opportunity to build value. Knowing which level you are at is the first step. In this unit, you will explore the different levels of engagement in conversations.
Essential Reading: Conversation Meter
The conversation meter can help people gauge how both parties are listening and speaking. Pretense describes the lowest level of engagement while authenticity describes the highest. At each level, the focus of the conversation shifts according to willingness to engage in the conversation.
Pretense: Pretense is a direct conflict between what you say in one situation and what you say in another (i.e., lying and/or withholding information). The focus is on avoiding difficulty.
Sincerity: Sincerity or brutal honesty is an honest report of your perspective. It includes certainty that your view is accurate without consideration of other perspectives. The focus is on being honest and defending your honest position.
Accuracy: Accuracy is separating mutually observable facts from the explanation of those facts. It includes the recognition that your perceptions are not reality. The focus is on revealing facts and comparing explanations for value.
Authenticity: Authenticity is being in a place of genuine appreciation of various views and factors, researching where they intersect for new insight and opportunity. The focus is on clarifying the essential purpose and revealing intersections that can be used for action.
Lesson 7.3: Communication and Social Justice Topics
• What are some ways to engage productively in communications about social justice topics?
Social justice issues are difficult to talk about because they affect many people on a personal level. People base opinions and beliefs about these topics on their own experiences or those of someone they care about. People often fear talking about these types of topics because they know others will disagree with their position on the topic and those disagreements can cause hurt feelings. In this unit, you will explore ways to engage productively in communications about social justice topics.
Essential Reading: Social Justice Issues
Social justice issues are issues in your community that have created injustice in your life or the lives of others. Typically, these issues are topics you and others feel passionate about. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
• drug abuse and addiction
• domestic violence
• police brutality
• educational opportunity
• physician-assisted suicide
• medical marijuana
• federal-mandated insurance coverage
• the opioid crisis
• children making medical decisions
It can be difficult to talk about social justice topics if you let your emotions overwhelm you.
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