Although people communicate by sending a message to a receiver, the message is received in different ways depending on the information. Different types of listening styles help us effectively understand messages we receive.

Types of Listening

Let’s face it; we hear a lot of noise all day. At work, in school or on the streets, there is a constant barrage of chatter going on. Sometimes, it is difficult to absorb all of the information thrown at us.

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In fact, it takes skill to differentiate the information and choose the appropriate listening style. Hearing is uncontrollable. Listening takes a special knack.

Lucky for us, there are several listening styles we can employ, depending on the type of message we receive:

  • Pseudo listening
  • Appreciative listening
  • Empathetic listening
  • Comprehensive listening
  • Critical listening

It all comes down to our ears and our brain! Noise moves through our ears, sends a signal to our brain and our brain tries to make sense of it.

Let’s check out a few ways in which we actually receive the messages.

Pseudo Listening

So, your cubicle partner is droning on about how her cat has the cutest spots on his face and likes to chase his tail and eats only canned tuna and on and on. You nod, smile and occasionally say something agreeable.

In reality, you are probably pseudo listening, and this is pretending to listen but not really absorbing anything from the conversation. Believe it or not, we do this for many reasons. For the co-worker’s cat story, perhaps you just didn’t want to put forth the effort into listening.

Sometimes, the information we receive is something we just don’t want to hear. If you are not a football fan, you may not appreciate the sports segment on the evening news. If you enjoy sports, you’d be likely to listen to game results in a much different way.

Appreciative Listening

Appreciative listening happens when we enjoy the message, like listening to your favorite song.

There are a few reasons we practice appreciative listening. The presentation itself may be appealing to us. Nobody wants to listen to someone who grates on our nerves. So, if the presentation is appealing, we will likely relish the experience more.

Our perceptions have much to do with appreciative listening. Some people are just not big fans of opera. They may feel it’s too dramatic or complicated. That perception may change if introduced to a more modern style of opera.

Sometimes past experiences affect listening. A song from childhood may bring back pleasant memories, making it more likely that we will appreciate listening to the tune again. If a not-so-pleasant message is sent, it may require a more compassionate listening skill.

Empathetic Listening

Bad news is just a part of life. When a friend shares something unpleasant with you, empathetic listening is probably the best way to go. It involves emotionally connecting with another person using compassion.

Don’t mistake it for sympathy. Empathy is different. It is about understanding another person, seeing the situation through their eyes. When we listen with empathy, we are less interested in facts. Our goal is to grasp the situation as they feel it.

  • I can see how this would upset you.
  • Do you want to talk about your pain?
  • Tell me about your pain.
  • Uh-huh, it must be difficult to have a broken leg.

In other words, be attentive to the speaker. Take an active approach. If words do not seem necessary, use non-verbal cues to let the person speaking know that you understand their situation.

When the message we are receiving is informative, we take a different approach.

Comprehensive Listening

When your favorite celebrity chef is making a recipe you have been dying to try, you are probably all ears. You hang on every step, trying hard not to miss one second of the demonstration. This is comprehensive listening, and we do this when we are listening to instructions, directions or anything that represents a process.

Background knowledge of the topic is pretty helpful. If you have basic cooking skills, you can probably follow along fairly easily. Terms like bake, sauté and grill are things you understand. In other words, you are listening to the chef discuss the recipe steps with a good knowledge of culinary terms; you will be able to understand his message.

For a kitchen newbie, it may take more comprehension to understand the message. Non-verbal cues may help. If a chef talks about whisking a cake mix, the whisk motion along with the unfamiliar term will aid in comprehension.

Credibility is also an important part of the message.

Critical Listening

Critical listening happens when we evaluate what the speaker is saying for truth. If the speaker says something that seems off-center, we use our critical thinking skills to align what was said to what we either know or believe to be true. And this may seem like walking a tightrope at times. Being open minded to new information is always a good idea.

However, when the information in the message doesn’t make sense to you, it requires careful decision making. How do you believe what you heard? Do you question the source? Both, sort of. Believe it for a moment, and then question the information and the source for further clarification.

Regardless of the message, it takes finesse to be a good listener.

Lesson Summary

To tie it all up, there are several types of listening. Each has its own characteristics and, depending on the situation, can be used to make meaning of a message.

Pseudo listening is pretend listening and is done when we are really not interested in the conversation. It could be because we are too lazy to actively listen, do not want to hear the message or just have poor listening skills.

We use appreciative listening when the message is pleasant and something we enjoy hearing, like our favorite musician.

Empathetic listening goes a long way in helping us understand what another person is experiencing and should be used in times of bad news. Simple agreement and empathetic statements let the sender know you truly grasp the gravity of their circumstance.

In class or while getting directions, comprehensive listening is helpful. This style helps us to attach meaning to the message by applying basic knowledge. This is a common listening style in education settings, like listening to someone give directions on how to do something.

We should always verify the information we hear. When doing this, we use critical listening to evaluate information for truth and authenticity. In other words, we take the information and run it through what we already know and what we can find to prove what we heard.

All in all, it takes quite a bit of practice to be a good listener.

Learning Outcomes

The topics discussed within this video lesson are designed to help you to:

  • Describe five types of listening
  • Identify the circumstances in which you would use each type
  • Make the distinction between sympathy and empathy