General Listening Types:
The two main types of listening – the foundations of all listening sub-types are:
- Discriminative Listening
- Comprehensive Listening
Discriminative listening is first developed at a very early age – perhaps even before birth, in the womb. This is the most basic form of listening and does not involve the understanding of the meaning of words or phrases but merely the different sounds that are produced. In early childhood, for example, a distinction is made between the sounds of the voices of the parents – the voice of the father sounds different to that of the mother.
Discriminative listening develops through childhood and into adulthood. As we grow older and develop and gain more life experience, our ability to distinguish between different sounds is improved. Not only can we recognise different voices, but we also develop the ability to recognise subtle differences in the way that sounds are made – this is fundamental to ultimately understanding what these sounds mean. Differences include many subtleties, recognising foreign languages, distinguishing between regional accents and clues to the emotions and feelings of the speaker.
Being able to distinguish the subtleties of sound made by somebody who is happy or sad, angry or stressed, for example, ultimately adds value to what is actually being said and, of course, does aid comprehension. When discriminative listening skills are combined with visual stimuli, the resulting ability to ‘listen’ to body-language enables us to begin to understand the speaker more fully – for example recognising somebody is sad despite what they are saying or how they are saying it.
Imagine yourself surrounded by people who are speaking a language that you cannot understand. Perhaps passing through an airport in another country. You can probably distinguish between different voices, male and female, young and old and also gain some understanding about what is going on around you based on the tone of voice, mannerisms and body language of the other people. You are not understanding what is being said but using discriminative listening to gain some level of comprehension of your surroundings.
Comprehensive listening involves understanding the message or messages that are being communicated. Like discriminative listening, comprehensive listening is fundamental to all listening sub-types.
In order to be able use comprehensive listening and therefore gain understanding the listener first needs appropriate vocabulary and language skills. Using overly complicated language or technical jargon, therefore, can be a barrier to comprehensive listening. Comprehensive listening is further complicated by the fact that two different people listening to the same thing may understand the message in two different ways. This problem can be multiplied in a group setting, like a classroom or business meeting where numerous different meanings can be derived from what has been said.
Comprehensive listening is complimented by sub-messages from non-verbal communication, such as the tone of voice, gestures and other body language. These non-verbal signals can greatly aid communication and comprehension but can also confuse and potentially lead to misunderstanding. In many listening situations it is vital to seek clarification and use skills such as reflection aid comprehension.
Why is listening so important in life and at work?
Listening is a key component of effectivecommunication skills.
Without listening, you can’t understand what other people are really trying to say. It’s easy to get something wrong and make assumptions.
On the other hand, when you actively listen, you can fully communicate with someone else.
Listening is the most important part of communication. That’s because it allows you to come up with a substantial and meaningful response. You can pick up on subtleties you wouldn’t have otherwise,especially with body language.
If something isn’t clear, you can ask clarifying questions. This is something you might not have done without active listening.
At work, communication is an important soft skill. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 80% of companies say that soft skills are increasingly important to their success.
Listening is also important forproductive collaboration.
According to the same LinkedIn report, collaboration is the third most important soft skill companies need.
Imagine trying to collaborate if you can’t actively listen to your colleagues. Information gets lost, and misunderstandings occur.
The same can happen if everyone on the team uses different levels of listening. Some people will be more engaged than others. Not everyone will get the same understanding of the same conversation.
You can avoid this if everyone actively listens to each other.
Plus, when you actively listen, your colleagues and your superiors will notice that you come up with meaningful responses.
Listening is also crucial if you want to learn effectively.
Without attentive listening, it can be easy to miss small details that make a difference in your learning.
Active listening games
You can improve team communication with active listening games.
In one such game, you and your colleagues can split up into groups of two. The first person in each group is given a picture, while the other person is given a pen and paper.
The second participant needs to ask questions in order to accurately draw the image the first participant is holding.
In another game, participants need to mime non-verbal cues to express their feelings about a topic. The other participants need to write down what they believe the other person feels.
Finally, you can practice active listening by having all participants listen to one person speak for three to five minutes. During this time, no other participants may speak. Afterwards, the other participants need to paraphrase what they think the other person said.
Benefits of Being a Good Listener
There are numerous benefits associated with being a good listener. People with refined listening skills can help others feel secure in expressing their opinions. They may also be better able to reduce tension during arguments and communicate respect to the speaker. Other potential benefits include being more likable, building stronger relationships, and having a clearer understanding of what’s being discussed.
- Good listeners are more likable. Individuals with strong listening skills are present in the conversation. People who listen with focus are often perceived as more likable.
- Good listeners build stronger relationships. Communication is not a one-way street. Good listeners show interest, ask open-ended questions, and acknowledge what’s being said. This helps reduce misunderstandings and builds stronger relationships.
- Good listeners have a clearer understanding of the topics being discussed. Individuals with refined listening skills seek to fully understand a speaker’s message. They pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues and ask for clarification when needed.
What Type of Listener Are You?
How to match your listening style to the speaker.
Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash
We all know the difference between mindless listening and mindful listening, but when it comes to paying attention, just how do you do it?
Do you give careful thought and consideration to the words of every speaker with which you converse?
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