Mastering Ting: the Ancient Chinese Listening Secret

By Eléa Faucheron , Founder MOVE THINK SMILE | Head Coach: Burnout to Badass

Think back, did anyone ever teach you how to listen?
You probably heard “listen up” or “listen to your father!” What did that really mean? For most, it was a signpost: do what you’re told, follow directions, and for god’s sake pay attention!

What we didn’t fully verbalize is there are many ways to listen. The Chinese have a very complex and interesting symbol for the word: listen. As a basic core sense, I love how they use six elements to represent this seemingly simple action.

The Ancient Chinese Secret: TING This symbol effectively illustrates what’s involved when you’re fully engaged in listening. It’s amazing to think the Chinese listen character was first used around 1,000 BCE. 

Next time your listening, observe if you’re tuned into each of Ting’s 6 ancient elements:

  1. Ears: to hear
  2. Mind: to think
  3. Body: to be present
  4. Eyes: to see
  5. Undivided Attention: to focus
  6. Heart: to feel

Below, we’ll explore three basic levels of listening, which elements are present at each level, how you can increase your listening skills and to get the results you want.


The 3 Levels of Listening

1. The Internal Broadcaster ears mind eyes focus heart

“What is this guy saying? His breath smells of onions. Does mine? I just ate a spinach salad. I didn’t check my teeth. Oh, crap, I forgot to call mom back-” is a sample script from none other than . . . the internal broadcaster! When someone is trying to communicate with you, it’s the constant voice vying for your attention.

How do I know I’m lost in the sound of the internal broadcaster?
My personal example: I’m practicing my public speaking skills and I realize my heart is racing, my palms are sweaty, I’m critiquing myself and I’m lost completely in my own experience.

What are some signs that let me know I’m listening at level one?

  • My mind is replaying a past event.
  • I’m focused on a future possibility that has nothing to do with the speaker.
  • When in conversation, I find myself thinking of unrelated stuff.

Most of us focus on our own internal dialogue verses the speaker. It’s not that we don’t care or we don’t want to listen, but listening to the broadcaster is easier. It’s a loud and enticing voice! We hear the “words” someone is saying, and at the exact same moment we start calculating how does this relate to me: my opinions, stories, and judgments along with my current needs.

For example: you’re in a conversation and you’re nodding enthusiastically…but internally you’re checked out and thinking:

  • “I had a similar experience on vacation in Cape Hatteras.”
  • “I’m exhausted, did I respond to my Ebay buyers question?”

  • “I really need to go; I want to watch the next episode of Orange Is The New Black.”
  • “I’m hungry; when was the last time I ate? I wonder where I can get some food.”
  • “What did they say? Did they notice I totally tuned out?”

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of times when it is perfectly necessary and important to pay close attention to your needs and opinions, even essential to your safety at times! Yet, if we spend too much time internally focused, it’s difficult to connect with people and you miss tons of important information.

Ting Analysis When you’re an internal broadcster, you’ve only tapped into the first two of Ting’s elements: Ears & Mind. Technically you’re hearing and thinking, but you’re not listening. Your ears absorb the sounds, but your mind is elseware. To reach the second level, add your body and undivided attention to the conversation. And, tune out the commentary of the internal broadcaster that takes you away from the speaker.

2.The Attentive Listener ears mind body eyes heart

In attentive listening – we tell our internal broadcaster to “turn it down,” and we make a concerted focused effort. All of our attention is directed towards the speaker. We take in their words, like water quenching your thirst on a hot day. Most of the time, there isn’t much effort required; someone pulls us straight into his or her world.

What happens when I’m attentively listening? My own example: I’m in a conversation with someone about a topic I love and time flies by, I’m energized when I leave the conversation and I notice I’ve been affected in some way.

What are some signs that let me know I’m listening at level two?

  1. Time flies.
  2. I’m energized and/or physically affected in some way that I notice only after the conversation is done.
  3. I feel connected, contented, compassion, and/or excited.

Not sure what I mean? Consider what happens when a close friend tells you someone they love died, we zero in, listen and help. Or you discover a colleague knows someone, you want to meet. Suddenly your attention is spiked: you tune in and soak up every word. It’s like two people completely wrapped up in a conversation and oblivious to the world around them. They’re actively engaged together; attentively listening, relishing in the moment’s connection.

Ting Analysis Good job! If you’ve had an attentitive listening experience, you just made a huge leap in boosting your listening skills. Your hearing and thinking are more effective now that you’re in the present moment and focusing on the person speaking. To reach level three listening, you must start seeing and feeling whole heartedly, the meaning beyond the words you hear.

3. The Universal Listener ears mind body

Think all encompassing focus, the universal listener takes in the whole picture in at once. On this level, you sense energy, the unspoken, between you and another. You can detect a change in attitude or temperature in the environments around you. You tap into the underlying mood, tone, and impact of the words within the conversation.

What happens when I am universally listening?
My own example: I’m in a conversation and I am tuned into the speaker, plus I notice my intuition, I notice the environment around me, and there is depth to the conversation that feels surreal.

How do I know I’m listening universally?

  1. My Ears and Mind are warmed up. Level 1 listening components in place.
  2. Giving my undivided attention to the present moment has been mastered through Level 2 listening skills.
  3. I see links in the conversation.For exmample, I notice how the busy restaurant affects the conversation.
  4. I observe a feeling in my stomach sparked from what we are discussing.
  5. I hear changes of inflection, tone, and repetitions from the speaker and reflect this back to them.

Entertainers, like stand up comedians, have a highly developed sense of universal listening. Even though they’re doing all the talking, they are listening deeply. The funniest stand-up’s know how to work a crowd, because they are fully tuned into the crowds’ vibe, body language, laugh tones, etc. They articulate what they notice, tune into whether their humor is landing or not, and intuitively adjust to fit the needs of the audience.

Try this exercise: think about a moment when you were having a conversation, and:

  • You suddenly noticed the environment shifting around you.
  • You were talking about a person, and then you see them drive by.
  • You’re grappling with a new project. Someone behind you, in another conversation, says something that sparks the solution you need…words and the environment align with you.

Ting Analysis Conratulations! When you hit Level 3 listenting, you’ll feel like a top secret agent navigating your way through enemy territory. You’re totally tuned in by using all 6 elements: ears, mind, body, eyes, undivided attention & heart. And, will have amazing insights into the conversation you never thought possible.




These are just a few quick listening type examples.
They are simple and easy to use, if you just try them. All it takes is pausing long enough; a second or two, to notice what level you’re in. As you get more adept in using these skills you’ll notice many positive changes in your life.


In this week’s inbox inspiration: Are you Really Tuned In?, you’re inquiring mind may be asking: OK, great, so how does improving my listening skills get me results? Here’s how China’s ancient secret helps:

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In the end, listening pays off no matter how you dice it.
If you’re struggling it’s because you’ve spent too much time listening to your internal broadcaster and less time focusing on what’s happening out there. Actively choose another level and see how it affects everything!

Want to learn more about being bold, living light, and being heard in your business or sport? Are you planing a bold move and want to share it with someone who understands? Contact me and let’s chat! Share your bold MOVES on MOVE THINK SMILE’s FaceBook community. I encourage you to engage. I want to listen to you!

If you’re ready to seriously reach your goal try MOVE THINK SMILE‘s unique program free!