Taking Your Stage Blog  
  Helping you improve the communication skills of the leaders and teams in your organization.  

3 items categorized "Trust"


“Say What?” The 5 Levels of Listening

“Amazing, simply amazing. Melt-in-your mouth. Your mama was a keeper.” Beth watched her dad’s mouth move, describing the delectable German chocolate cakes her mom used to bake, but all she could think was, “He’s a diabetic! He should not be talking about mom’s cakes. He’s only making it harder for himself.”

Beth didn’t know it, but she wasn’t really listening. At least, not in the highest possible sense of the word.


Peg Allen, communication trainer with Hippo Solutions, teaches that there are actually five levels of listening. The fifth level is “Not Listening.” At this level, we have our fingers in our ears and our eyes closed, repeating “La, la, la, la, la…”   We can’t hear the other person at all.

If you’ve ever been on the other end, trying to talk to a person with his "fingers in his ears", you know it’s absolutely infuriating. We are left misunderstood, unable to clarify, with no sense of value to our voice.

When we listen at the fourth level, we are “Listening for Judgment.” This is Beth’s level, judging her dad’s words. At this level, we are so preoccupied with our own thoughts, evaluating what the other person is saying, that we can’t actually hear the meaning behind the words. This preoccupation hinders our ability to connect with the other person on a heart level.

At the third level, we are “Listening to Tell Our Story.” Instead of actually focusing on the other person’s story, we are thinking of how our own story relates to her story. We are listening for a break, a pause, a moment when we can interject.

The fourth level is “Listening for Application.” When we listen for how we can learn from the information or apply it to our own work or lives in some way, we really are listening intently because we are motivated by the usefulness of the information. Yet, we still aren’t listening at the highest level.

At the top of the pyramid, the first level, we are “Listening to understand.” Our thoughts are focused on the other person instead of ourselves, and we want to understand for their sake, not our sake. I believe at this level, our listening is motivated by respect and value. And as the other person feels heard, understood, and known by our attentive listening, he or she experiences being valued.

With the swirl of activities, tasks, work, responsibilities, twitter feeds and random thoughts, choosing to listen to understand is extremely challenging. It takes work and intentionality. But when we listen for the heart behind the words and respond in a way that communicates we understand, our connection with the other person is deepened, and trust is established.

“Wait, did you say ‘Your mama was a keeper?’” Beth asked her father. He nodded, “She sure was.” Beth thought for a moment, and then asked, “Are you missing her today?” He nodded again, tears in his eyes. “I miss her every day.” Beth reached out and hugged him. He hugged her back. And she finally understood.




What Does "Make Them Look Good" Look Like?

IStock_000011451512_webIn our last post I provided a tool used by improv that can improve our business communication and foster trust.  What does that look like?  How do I "make someone look good?"  I wanted to offer a practical way of doing this and that is:

Communicate the information to them that will help them do a great job.

Don't communicate information to them because you have to, or because you need something, but to help them do a great job.  For example, "our group is on track to complete our task on Friday so that your group can take over, but I am a little concerned that a problem with one of our customers is going to throw a wrench into things this week.  I'll keep you up to date so that you can know what is likely to happen."  There are many examples of this - I am giving them what they need to plan, be prepared, and knock it out of the park in their group.

When they reciprocate we become a well-oiled machine...and it is actually fun to work together.





Make Them Look Good, Establish Trust

IStock_000003273134_web2Trust is a critical component of leadership and good communication culture.  The lack of trust is evident when people are afraid to speak up, communication does not flow freely, honest feedback is not given, and turnover is high.  As leaders (and everyone is a leader in some way) we establish trust as we communicate.

Improv provides us with another tool to establish trust as we communicate.  And is...to make everyone else around you look good.  If you ever find yourself doing an improv routine you would discover that part of your job is to focus on your partners.  Same thing on your teams.  You set them up.  You make it easy for them to continue the "scene" and look good.  If they drop the ball, you pick it up and help them.  Your entire focus is not on what you can say to look good yourself, but what you can communicate to make them look good.

Over time, they trust you.  They know you have their back.  And guess what is the result when their focus is to make you look good?

  • A highly effective team that...
  • Trusts each other with...
  • Free-flowing communication that...
  • Makes everyone look good and...
  • Immensely enjoy what they are doing

It starts with you.  Be accountable in your communication to focus on everyone else and make them look good.