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Five Types of Listening


“Easy listening is a style of music, not communication.” Harvey Mackay, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Most communication experts agree that poor listening skills are the biggest contributors to poor communication. There are five basic types of listening. Which one do you think most people practice?

1. Passive Listening: The definition of this is the old adage, “In one ear and out the other.” You hear the words, but your mind is wandering and no communication is taking place. In passive listening, nothing of the speaker's words goes into the mind of the listener. The words of the speaker don't activate the thought process of the listener. But the listeners are physically present though mentally absent. The listener may have decided to ignore the speaker due to either preconceived notions or the boring introduction of the listener. The responsibility for this negative kind of listening lies with the speaker who may not have aroused the interest of the listeners.

2. Active Listening: You listen closely to content and intent. What emotional meaning might the speaker be giving you? You try to block out barriers to listening. Most importantly, you are non-judgmental and empathetic. Active listening takes place when the listener is active, which is born out by the active participation of the listener. The listener displays forwarding-bending body posture seeks clarification and gives feedback. Active listening is highly involved in listening. The ideal listening takes place when active listening is combined with empathetic listening wherein the views of both listener and speaker are merged with due balance. The responsibility for active listening to happen solely lies with the speaker who should be able to generate interest in the topic by proper introduction etc.

3. Evaluative Listening: In evaluative listening, the listener either assesses the value of the message or compares it with what is usually considered the best. He may do this either simultaneously while listening or by stopping for while. Since evaluation takes place in this kind of listening, the listener may decide either to continue listening or turn away from the listening. Alternately, he may engage himself in framing the statement of rebuttal. Hence evaluative listening may lead to either positive or negative outcomes depending on the open-mindedness and intellect of the listener.

4. Informative Listening: Informative listening takes a lot of information with full concentration and thus helps one understand the message being given. Because of the intensity of effort in taking most of the information, the message is understood almost close to what is intended. This is the best way to learn and an ideal kind of listening. While imbibing what is given by the teachers or while taking instructions from the superiors or when the subordinate is explaining the problem he is facing, the listener engages himself in informative listening. Informative listening requires a lot of attention.

Informative listening is the first stage of positive listening from which other kinds of listening like attentive listening, evaluative listening, empathic listening etc originate.

Informative listening requires good vocabulary, concentration and memory so as to be effective in achieving its purpose.

5. Appreciative Listening: The primary purpose of appreciative listening is to appreciate and thus enjoy the way the message is being given, but not to take the benefit of the content or meaning of the message. Appreciative listening usually takes place while listening to the music or when one enjoys the style of the speaker or other features not related to the content.

The best benefit of appreciative listening is realized depending on three conditions: presentation, perception, and previous experience. Presentation factors include the style, the medium, the setting, and the personality of the speaker. Secondly, the perception of the listener, which again depends on his attitude and expectations, determines how one appreciates the presentation. Lastly, the previous experience of the listener and his familiarity with the speaker determines whether he would enjoy the presentation or not. Existing positive opinion or familiarity with certain inherent and negligible drawbacks in the presentation may help one appreciate the presentation

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