The Listening Ladder

ssq_ladder_2013_01The previous months I’ve focused my personal growth on my listening skills. Therefore I’ve tried to use the three levels of listening consciously and hereby also using powerful questions. In the book ‘The Facilitator’s and Trainers Toolkit‘ by Artie Mahal I stumbled upon another basic technique that might help improve you with truly listening: The Listening Ladder.

The Listening LADDER

  • Look at the person speaking to you. Make eye contact to express that you are interested in what the other person has to say.
  • Ask questions. Ask follow-up open ended questions to comprehend the meaning of what is being said.
  • Don’t interrupt. Ensure that the interruption is only for clarification of what has been said.
  • Don’t change the subject. You will get an indication to change the topic when the speaker is finished with one thought. Look for cues to transition to another topic.
  • Emotions in control. Demonstrate this by a gesture such as “nodding your head” so that the speaker gets the message that your are interested in what is being said.
  • Responsive listening. Through body language such as nodding your head, eye-brow movements, acknowledge that you are just as engaged in the conversation as the speaker is. You can do this without interrupting the speaker by saying, … I see… or … I understand…

Be Authentic

Although the Listening Ladder might seem very obvious, mastering these skills will for sure improve your listening skills. However, one condition should be in place to ensure success: be authentic! With authentic behavior I mean applying the Listening Ladder with the intention to have a rich conversation. If you don’t really have the intention to listen, if you don’t really care or your thoughts are somewhere else, nodding your head might give the speaker the impression you’re listening, but in reality you’re not truly empathizing. As a consequence the speaker might even feel tricked by you… So use the Listening Ladder wisely.