"Levels of Listening"

Grade Level:
Lesson Title:

Euclid High School
William Gray
Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps
"Levels of Listening"
November 12, 1996
  1. TOPIC
One of the "Top Ten" attributes that potential employers are looking for is good communication skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening). Our education systems focus primarily on reading and writing, with speaking skills usually as an "elective" course. People rarely receive any formal education or training on how to truly, deeply listen to understand another person's point of view from their frame of reference.

The student will define, discuss and use the five basic levels of "listening" (ignoring, pretending, selective, attentive, empathic). He will be able to ultimately listen for true understanding from the other person's point of view so that he may better communicate his ideas in a problem solving arena or workplace.

  1. Behavior Objectives: The student will be able to:
  1. Define, discuss, and use the five basic levels of listening.
  2. Develop his ability to empathetically listen to other people (parents, friends, teachers) so that he may fully understand the other person's point of view before expressing his own or making a judgment.
  3. Expand his listening/attention span by recognizing his own positive or negative listening skills, and then making appropriate adjustments to his skills.
  1. State Career Objectives: the student will:
  1. Gain knowledge, understand, and express one's self and to others in the school and work environment. Self-Awareness
  2. Gain knowledge and practical use of "listening" as an essential communication skills. Employability Skills
  3. Gain knowledge of how to better communicate to make group decisions in a "self-directed work force." Goal Setting/Decision Making
  4. Become more knowledgeable of and open to differing cultural and personal opinions and points of view through empathic listening. Reduction of Biases
  1. State Competencies for Career/Technical and Academic. The student will:
  1. Be able to contribute as a productive member of a team. The student will exercise sound leadership by virtue of his ability to effectively communicate ideas to justify position, persuade and convince others, and by responsibly and intellectually challenging existing procedures and policies. Interpersonal/Working With Others
  2. Be able to effectively interpret and evaluate information in a group setting. Information
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Begin by asking the students to list the four skills needed to effectively communicate in the school or potential workplace (reading writing, speaking, listening). Many will forget or not recognize "listening" as an essential skill

Explain that our school education and training emphasizes reading and writing. We may all receive some instruction in speaking, especially if we take a speech class. However, very little is done to teach people how to really "listen" to other people.

Conduct a "listening exercise." Pass a message around the class by having one student whisper a simple message in the ear of another student. The second student then whispers the received message to a third student, and so forth until the message is passed to all students. The last student must annoiunce out loud the message. Results will be surprising as people receive the message according to the level at which they listen.

Explain that having "problems" is a natural part of life-all people, good and bad, rich and poor, of all ethnic races, have them.

Explain that many problems may be solved by proper communication and understanding of the other person. This is why listening is so vital.

Explain that problems between parents and teenagers, problems at work, or problems that could even start wars between countries may be solved if people could properly listen to others.

Explain that people must use a rational, logical and "controlled approach" to truly fix problems. Simply "arguing" or exerting authority to prove a point or "be right," will not resolve conflict or find long term solutions to problems. This is true in our work, family, school, and relationships. In order to begin solving problems, we must first learn to listen.

List and explain the five levels of listening. Have the students relate by giving examples, in each case, of how, where, and when they listen in each of the five levels.

Give each student a copy of the attached "Listening Matrix" and "Listening Evaluation Worksheet."

For one week, they are to pay close attention to how they spend their time "listening." Each column is a day of the week, and each row is a school period or other activity. For the rows representing class periods, the students will write the subject and the different levels of listening he experienced. If a student finds that he listens with all five levels, for example during biology or history class, he should indicate also the approximate percentage of time by each level of listening.

As a daily evening activity, the student will conduct a conversation with a family member (mother, father, brother, sister, etc.) or observe how members in the family use the various levels of listening while carrying on a conversation at dinner or during a family discussion. The student will make a brief entry in the "Listening Maxtrix" as to what he observed.

During a follow up on class session, each student will report the results of what they discovered using their "Listening Matrix" and "Listening Evaluation Worksheet." For example, they may report that they tended to selectively listen to parents for most of the time and pretend to listen to some teachers, while they really attentively or empathetically listened to others.

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  1. Materials
Board, over-head projector, copies of "Listening Matrix" "Listening Evaluation Worksheet," and the "Levels of Listening" for each student.

  1. Evaluation
"Listening Matrix" and Evaluation Sheet

  1. References
  1. Covey, Stephen R., The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, A Fireside Book, Published Simon and Schuster, New York 1990.
  2. Matthews, Andrew, Making Friends-A Guide to Getting Along with People, Published by Price Stern Sloan, Los Angeles, CA., 1991.
  3. Vannoy, Steven W., The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children, Published Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994.

Levels of Listening

  1. Ignoring
    Not really listening at all...

  2. Pretending
    "Yeah. Uh-huh. Right."

  3. Selective
    Hearing only certain parts of a conversation we want to hear.

  4. Attentive
    Paying attention and focusing energy on what is said. Usually accompanied by the intention to respond with advice, intent to finish the sentence for the person, or to project an "autobiographical" response that relates to a personal experience or to assume the thoughts, feelings, motives and interpret the person. EXPLAIN THAT THIS IS NOT TRUE LISTENING!!!
Autobiographical response is in one of for ways:
  1. Evaluate: we agree or disagree.
  2. Probe: we ask questions from our frame of reference.
  3. Advise: we give counsel based on our own experience.
  4. Interpret: we try to figure people out, to explain their motives and behavior based on our own motives and behavior.
Again, "attentive listening" is usually done with an intent to respond or give advice, when in reality we then do not fully understand what the other person is saying from their frame of reference.
  1. Empathic
    Truely understanding the other person's point of view does not necessarily mean you agree with it. To listen empathetically menas that you can, in your own words, relate back to the other person, to his or her satisfaction, his or her point of view. It does not mean that you sympathize with the other person. It means that you can "empathize" the other person's point of view (as if you have walked in that other persons shoes for at least one week). It means you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally, as well as intellectually.

    Empathic listening requires much work and patience on the listener's part. It is the most difficult level, yet the most important and most neglected in our world.

    Once again, during empathic listening, you do not give your point of view until you first understand the other person's point of view to his or her satisfaction that you understand what they said. (Again, this does not mean that you must agree with him, but that you intellectually and "emotionally" relate to him.

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    Last Updated July 8, 1997