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Types of Listening


Styles of Listening

          There are several different types of listening that we all practice in our day-to-day lives. 

  • For Information – When we listen for information, we are picking up on ideas, thoughts, and ways that may be important or enjoyable. We become better, more rounded, and knowledgeable communicators when we listen for information. 

  • For Enjoyment – When we listen for pleasure, it makes us feel good. We can listen to music, podcasts, lectures, speeches, YouTube videos, movies, and television for enjoyment. 

  • To Solve Problems – Strong listening skills help us figure out the needs of others and ourselves. If we listen well, we may hear clues to things we could do to work through issues and solve problems. 

  • To Evaluate – When we listen to evaluate, we are listening to see if the information is correct or not and to see how it impacts us. In today’s society, we hear so much information from a variety of sources, it is vitally important we not just hear this information but listen to it. Listening allows us to evaluate the information’s accuracy, relevance, validity, and impact on our society. The more information that comes at us, the more we need to be on our game to evaluate it. 

  • Critically – To listen critically, we take the evaluation one step further. We ascertain if the information is good or bad, right or wrong. We need to be able to analyze the information and respond accordingly. Critical listening analyzes its value for us—is it good or bad? Relevant or not relevant? Useful or not useful? Helpful or harmful?

  • With Empathy – When we listen empathetically, we listen wholly to another person. It may be only for them to be able to release emotion, ideas, or thoughts. The other person may not want a response from you, they may just need someone to listen as they sound out their thoughts. Being an empathetic listener may be difficult and draining physically and emotionally, as our first instinct is often to want to jump in and help them. Sometimes the biggest help we can offer is being an attentive, caring, and concerned listener. 

Styles of Listeners

          Similar to the types of listening, there are several different styles of listeners. Each style affects how we listen and what we process and remember. 

  • People-Oriented – If we are people-oriented in our listening, we may want to create and maintain positive relationships. Listening with empathy falls into this category. The listener may pay attention only to the details of the speaker and not to their message.

  • Action-Oriented – If we are action-oriented in our listening, then accomplishing and fulfilling the task at hand may be our focus. We listen only to get the job done—not to any nuances surrounding the task or message. 

  • Content-Oriented – If we are content-oriented listeners, we look at material with the message, its meaning and credibility. We try to see it from as many perspectives as possible to better understand it. 

  • Time-Oriented – If we are time-oriented listeners, we hear what is needed to fit within a set time parameter. The message must be done and the quicker, the better—aim for short and concise. If the speaker doesn’t meet their attention span and time frame, the listener may stop listening. 

          Just as we have many differing styles of communication, we each have our own unique style of listening. This style may change and adapt to the situation we are in. Remember, all communication is situationally based. Adaption is key in communication, listening, and life.  

Review Questions

1) When someone is listening to see if the information is correct or not, what style of listening are they using? 

2) When may be an appropriate time to listen empathetically? 

3) If a person is interested in maintaining positive relationships, what style of listener could they be?

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