Transformative Listening

Discovering Four Fields of Conversation

C. Otto Scharmer

 Presencing Institute, MIT

A Core Question of our time seems is:

How can we overcome Divisions?


Shifting your mode of listening can be LIFE-CHANGING.

Our Relationships

Our World

Transforming how we listen changes how we experience:


Different Types of Conversations are shaped by


uterly distinct Ways of Listening,

wich profoundly shape our Experience and Perception

1D TALK is shaped by Self-Affirmative Listening:

1D Listening focuses on what we already know.

1D Listening aims to reconfirm and protect Our Known World.

(1D = One Dimensional)

One Dimensional Conversation

2D DEBATE is shaped by Factual Listening:

2D Listening shifts focus to what is new to us.

2D Listening aims to engage with our Unknown World*.

(2D = Two Dimensional)

Two Dimensional Conversations

​(*which can be in destructive or constructive ways)





3D DIALOGUE is shaped by Empathic Listening:

3D Listening shifts focus to another person’s experience.

3D Listening aims to understand Another’s World.

(3D = Three Dimensional)

Three Dimensional Conversations





That means that Different Ways of Listening

transform how we perceive the world.

In 1D Listening we are the center of the world.*

We experience predominantly through one perspective.

Our World can become small and flat.

(*1D-Listening can be very helpful, for example it is key to our psychological understanding of ourselves.)

In 2D Listening we become a part of the world.

We experience it through two or more perspectives.

Our World grows larger and multilayered.  

(Note: 2D-Listening is a key to our critical understanding of complex issues.)

In 3D Listening other people become real and a part of the world.

We experience their world through their eyes.

The World of Another becomes real and three dimensional.

(Note: 3D-Listening is a key to our empathic understanding of other people.)

The unexpected action of deep

listening can create a space of transformation.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Sounds good that 3D Listening

is our solution to current divisions, right?

Not quite.

Unfortunately, there is a Shadow to Empathy.

Research shows that Empathy

is mostly activated towards our In-Groups.

One sided empathy can already

lead to violence in a simple football match.

How much more when it comes

to our groups around nation or religion?

We need Empathic Listening to diverse people and perspectives.

We need to respond to divisions of our time with 3D+ Listening which:  

Activates our Connection with diverse people

Enables our Exploration of contradicting perspectives

Empowers our Worldview to better hold complexity

3D + Listening enables us to practice another Type of Conversation:


which is shaped by Innovative Listening:

3D + Listening focuses on unlocking our collective intelligence.

3D + Listening aims to understand complex issues on a deeper level.

In 3D+ Listening diverse people

of different social groups become real to us.

We experience the world through

multiple and at times contradicting perspectives.

Our World becomes real and three dimensional*.

(*Note: 3D+ Listening is key to understanding

our Interdependence with each other and the world.)

The Core Task of our Time appears to be:

to transform from a ‘Me-Thinking’

to a ‘We-Thinking’?

Inspired by C. Otto Scharmer


By crossingborderseducation


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