What is Listening?
Listening is the most critical component in the communication process. It involves accurately receiving and interpreting messages in a spoken, written, or non-verbal format. When we fail to listen correctly, it becomes a communication barrier.
There are different types of listening, each one relevant to a specific set of circumstances. Let us take a look at some of the primary types of listening.
When deciphering communication simply by recognizing the tone of voice and other sound nuances, it is called discriminative listening. Babies, or even our pets for that matter, do not understand words, but they rely on their discriminative listening to recognize people and moods. As grown-ups, at times, we depend on visual and tonal aspects such as mannerisms, facial expressions, and body language- to provide us clues to what we are listening to.
We practice comprehensive listening when focusing on the overall context and the message being conveyed. With a limited emphasis on each word, comprehensive listening is an overriding type of listening that covers most other forms of listening. We tend to use comprehensive listening to quickly understand and summarize the messages being communicated in our daily lives.
When trying to understand new concepts and comprehend relatively new terms, we experience informative listening. It is usually a rational form that follows a logical sequence when listening to instructions, lecture sessions, or a briefing. It plays a vital role in our career and in learning new things.
This involves analyzing or evaluating the information communicated to us. Critical listening happens a lot in teamwork when participating in a problem-solving exercise and deciding if we agree with a proposition. It does not mean passing a judgment or criticizing, but appraising the information one is receiving.
Almost the exact opposite of critical listening is biased listening, also known as selective listening. It is a type of listening behavior when someone is listening only for the information one wants to hear. Because it does not involve an honest evaluation of the speaker’s actual opinions, it is a communication barrier that can distort facts and lead to inefficiencies.
Usually driven by emotion, this type of listening involves processing feelings or emotions being communicated. One might use sympathetic listening when colleagues are explaining their troubles at work. Sympathetic listening is convenient when the need is to offer support and if required, sound advice. This type of listening helps establish a deeper connection and to bond with another person.
When a listener tries to understand a point of view by placing themselves directly in the speaker’s position, it is empathetic listening. Sometimes referred to as therapeutic listening, it goes beyond sympathetic listening and enables the listener to relate to the speaker’s experience as if it were their own. Empathetic listening is usually the result of having first-hand knowledge of the message you are listening to.
Listening for enjoyment is appreciative listening. A good example is listening to music or your favorite speaker. At workplaces, the practice of this type of listening helps us build rapport with others. We engage in it to encourage the other person to trust and like us.
We tend to take listening for granted, as though it is a natural habit. But the act of listening is a skill that needs to be nurtured and cultivated. Many online courses teach us the subtleties of practicing the various forms of listening. Not only does good listening make us great communicators, but it also offers others an enjoyable experience speaking to us, which makes good listening skills a vital foundation to build strong personal relationships with our families, friends, and colleagues.