Are you evolving as a Listener? (or, How I moved from “at least I know” to “I don’t Already know”)

My background in Counseling tends to make me think in terms of developmental stages or evolution.  So I am attracted to ideas/theories like Maslow, Piaget, Kohlberg, Graves, Beck, Wilber – Spiral Dynamics, Integral Theory, etc.  So I came across “The Theory of U” by Otto Sharmer (recommended by the latter), I’ve posted the beginning of the theory which has to do with Evolving as a Listener.  This also gels well with many of my Taoist beliefs about remaining open enough to say “I don’t already know”.  “Change” has been a buzzword along with ‘Hope” these last few months.  Real change happens when you remain truly OPEN. So, are you evolving as a Listener?

Learning to recognize the habits of attention in

any particular business culture requires, among

other things, a particular kind of listening.

Over more than a decade of observing people’s

interactions in organizations, I have noted four

different types of listening.


“Yeah, I know that already.” I call this type

of listening “downloading”—listening by

reconfirming habitual judgments. When

you are in a situation where everything

that happens confirms what you already

know, you are listening by downloading.


“Ooh, look at that!” This type of listening

is factual or object-focused: listening by

paying attention to facts and to novel or

disconfirming data. You switch off your

inner voice of judgment and listen to the

voices right in front of you. You focus on

what differs from what you already know.

Factual listening is the basic mode of

good science. You let the data talk to you.

You ask questions, and you pay careful

attention to the responses you get.


“Oh, yes, I know exactly how you feel.”

This deeper level of listening is empathic

listening. When we are engaged in real

dialogue and paying careful attention,

we can become aware of a profound shift

in the place from which our listening

originates. We move from staring at the

objective world of things, figures, and

facts (the “it-world”) to listening to the

story of a living and evolving self (the

“you-world”). Sometimes, when we say

“I know how you feel,” our emphasis is on

a kind of mental or abstract knowing. But

to really feel how another feels, we have

to have an open heart. Only an open heart

gives us the empathic capacity to connect

directly with another person from within.

When that happens, we feel a profound

switch as we enter a new territory in the

relationship; we forget about our own

agenda and begin to see how the world

appears through someone else’s eyes.


“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

type of listening moves beyond the

current field and connects us to an even

deeper realm of emergence. I call this

level of listening “generative listening,”

or listening from the emerging field of

future possibility. This level of listening

requires us to access not only our open

heart, but also our open will—our

capacity to connect to the highest future

possibility that can emerge. We no longer

look for something outside. We no longer

empathize with someone in front of us.

We are in an altered state. “Communion”

or “grace” is maybe the word that comes

closest to the texture of this experience.

When you operate from Listening 1 (downloading),

the conversation reconfirms what you

already knew. You reconfirm your habits of

thought: “There he goes again!”
When you operate

from Listening 2 (factual listening), you disconfirm

what you already know and notice what is new out

there: “Boy, this looks so different today!”

you choose to operate from Listening 3 (empathic

listening), your perspective is redirected to seeing

the situation through the eyes of another: “Boy,

yes, now I really understand how you feel about

it. I can sense it now too.”
And finally, when you

choose to operate from Listening 4 (generative

listening), you realize that by the end of the

conversation you are no longer the same person

you were when it began. You have gone through

a subtle but profound change that has connected

you to a deeper source of knowing, including the

knowledge of your best future possibility and self.

Want to know more? Go to:
I love discovering – don’t you?

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Live'n Aloha on Maui.
Lately just posting pics, artwork, vids, & music with just a headline (less seems to be more).
Into Wilber, Beck, Zen Stuffs, Spiritual Concepts, Philosophy and Humor (kinda geeky humor).
Currently attempting to strengthen my meditation skills (this has been a 20 yr process).
Thanks for stopp'n by and please leave a comment. Poz or Neg, all comments welcome.
"I don't like Spam" (said with a British accent)

November 2008


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