Whole-Face Listening

November 10, 2007

Does anyone read the Rose is Rose comic strip? One time, the toddler son (Pasquale) admonished his mother (Rose) for being visibly distracted while the boy wanted her to be listening. Rose went about her business and assured her son that she was paying attention, even though she was not looking at him. Pasquale grabbed Rose by the cheeks and turned her head to that they made eye contact; he then said, “No, Mom, I want ‘whole-face’ listening.”

Many of you may know that I returned to school after being out for nearly two decades and ABD (All But Dissertation) from Capella University in training and performance improvement. Add this to my four children, husband, full-time position as a Georgia Southern public relations professor . . . and I know that I spend much less time “whole-face” listening than I ought to.

Though I’ve been interested in and researching listening for more than two decades, earlier this year, I learned of the concept of Level III listening in my Coaching for High Performance course. Whitworth, Kimsey-House, and Sandahl in Co-Active Coaching say that in Level III (or global) listening, it is “as though you and the client were at the center of the universe receiving information from everywhere at once” (1998, p. 37). I asked my peers learners from Capella how they feel when they are a part of Level III (or “whole-face”) listening. They responded that they feel:

  • Happy
  • Appreciated
  • Lucky
  • Complete
  • Gratified
  • Validated
  • Excited
  • Full of life

Even though I am a Life Member of the International Listening Association, I definitely have some challenges in listening. I can easily become distracted in a conversation, and find that I must work hard to focus at times on the other person. Perhaps my ADHD has something to do with this . . . but it’s just as likely that it is because I attempt to multi-multi-task. This is never helpful in building or maintaining a relationship!

Take time to listen. There’s power in listening.


Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, H., & Sandahl, P. (1998). Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life. Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.



  1. I also feel that as a woman,myself, to get anything done I have to multi-task. If I was to concentrate on one particular task then I feel as if I am wasting time. I can be doing two other things at that moment. Yes, I also have two very demanding children and sometimes I feel like I am being pulled in 30 different ways but then there are those times when I have an outer body experience and see myself not really paying attention to my chidren (listening but not really listening). It makes me stop in my tracks and devote all of my attention to them and once I do that then they occupy themselves and then it’s back to multi-tasking again.
    Even with all that I have said I would’nt change it for the world. CHEERS!

  2. […] least for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, remember to “whole-face listen” to those you are spending time with. They’ll appreciate it. And you’ll become […]

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