At this level of listening, I am engaged. My mic is on mute, but only so the speaker can avoid interruption: I am ready to come off mute at any time.
The background noise where I am is ‘ambient’, meaning that there could be knocks on the front door, or the neighbours might be getting some DIY done, but I’m not going out of my way to find a quiet spot for this meeting.
I switch my camera on, and self-view is there, unless I want to switch it off (more on that later).
I might occasionally need to be interrupted by other work, simply because there is other important work going on: I may need to respond quickly to help keep something moving.
Unfortunately, I don’t have empirical data, but I believe this is a very common level of listening for busy Scrum Teams.
The question I put to you is: is this an appropriate level of listening?
Wouldn’t it be awesome to practice getting to the next level? Imagine the repetition and waste we could avoid if everyone was focussed on the task at hand!
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
At this level, I am focussed on what is happening on the call: on a one to one conversation, I am attentively listening to the other person. In a group call, I am attentive to the whole conversation. In both situations, I am paying attention and recording facts.
I demonstrate this on a call by controlling my background noise if at all possible, and leaving my mic off mute. Switching my camera on shows that I am present.
Here’s a pro tip for Zoom users: if you want to stand a chance of active listening on any call, ‘Hide Self View’. This stops you from being able to see your own camera and removes a big impediment to my ability to concentrate: I can’t see my own reflection any more!
If you also want to give yourself a better chance of listening actively, size the Zoom window larger on the screen, and postpone all other work until the call is done.
Your task as an active listener is to ignore or mute those other notifications prompting you to divide your attention. That includes your mobile phone.
This is a deep cut: for the coaches out there. At this level, I am more focussed on you than me, so self-view is definitely off.
I’d suggest the call window could be maximised, but really what I mean by that is that everything else is minimised: the only thing you want to be paying attention to on-screen is the other person.
One possible exception might be a timer.
At the level of deep listening, it is actually possible to listen to the other person and pick up on more signals that they are sending our way.