Three Types of Listening According to Jennifer Garvey Berger

In her interview in The Knowledge Project Ep. #84, Jennifer Garvey Berger shared the idea that there are 3 types of listening:

  1. Listening to fix
  2. Listening to win
  3. Listening to learn

Win: I think of this as the most surface-level listening. Dismissive. You listen in order to collect just enough data that you can use to kind of cut their problem or their solution out so that you can win. It sweeps the problem away, and you’ve won because the person leaves you alone. But you don’t have that much more information. E.g. to convince the person of something, that they don’t need to be so sad or they don’t need to be so anxious or it’s not really that bad or it’s all going to be temporary or whatever it is.

Fix: More engaged. You will listen and gather more information and diagnose. It’s the problem-solving nature of us. “have you tried this supplement? Have you tried this journaling practice? Have you tried this meditation practice?” How can I see your problem and use some of my existing knowledge or expertise to make it go away? You listen in order to drive to a particular solution that’s already in your head. Diagnostic. “Have you done this, have you done that? What have you been looking at? Let me look at the data that you’re looking at. Let me see what you’re trying to see.

Learn: Deepest. Takes more effort and time. To go in and say, I don’t have the solution here and I can’t make this go away. So how can I know you better? How can I understand the world that you live in or the problem that you’re seeing in some deeper, richer way? Holding the space, take perspective, and be OK with not knowing. When you recognise and pay attention to the complexity. Let me be sure that I really understand this situation before I just narrow and solve. But even if we can’t solve it right now, it’s a process we’ll walk through.

Both listening to Win and listening to Fix are useful in the predictable world when there are right answers and there are knowable problems that you might have the solution to.

You switch into the mode of listening to learn where you don’t know what the solution is, and even more so, you don’t quite know what the problem is. Which are often the case in the complex unpredictable world.

She elaborated it more here:

The key takeaway for me is that there is no right or wrong type of listening. We need to practice all three in different situations. Knowing these help me notice more which mode I am in and decide if I need to switch.

Hopefully improving my awareness, ability, and quality of listening will make me a better team member, leader, and human being.

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