Transformative Listening

Discovering Four Fields of Conversation

C. Otto Scharmer

 Presencing Institute, MIT

A Core Question of our time is:

How can we overcome Divisions?


Shifting our mode of listening can be LIFE-CHANGING,

Our Relationships

Our World

because transforming our listening changes the experience of:


There are three Types of Conversations


that have incredibly distinct Ways of Listening:

1D-TALK is shaped by Self-Affirmative Listening.

1D Listening focuses on what we already know.

1D Listening reaffirms and protects Our Known World.

(1D = One Dimensional)


1D Conversations

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)


2D Conversations

​(*This can be in destructive or constructive ways.)






I know

The Focus

of my Listening

3D-DIALOGUE is shaped by Empathic Listening.

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

(3D = Three Dimensional)


3D Conversations





This is significant, because it shows that

Different Ways of Listening have the power to:


Transform our Perception of the world.

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

We experience predominantly through one perspective,*

but our World can grow small and flat.

(*which can be an important tool for our self-understanding)

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

We experience it through two or more perspectives*.

(*which is a key for our critical understanding of complex issues)

In 3D Listening other people become real.

We experience the world through their eyes*.

Our World grows larger and multilayered.

(*which is a key tool for our empathic understanding of other people)

"The unexpected action of deep listening

can create a space of transformation."

Martin Luther King Jr.