What is Listening Skills?

What is Listening Skills!

Definition of Listening Skills

Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood. Effective listening is a skill that underpins all positive human relationships.

Types of Listening Skills


Following are the types of Listening Skills

1. Discriminative 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 from that of the mother.

Discriminative listening develops through childhood and into adulthood.


2. Comprehensive Listening

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 to use comprehensive listening and therefore gain understanding the listener first needs appropriate vocabulary and language skills.

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.

3. Informational Listening

Whenever you listen to learn something, you are engaged in informational listening.  This is true in many day-to-day situations, in education, and at work, when you listen to the news, watch a documentary, when a friend tells you a recipe or when you are talked-through a technical problem with a computer – there are many other examples of informational listening too.

Although all types of listening are ‘active’ – they require concentration and a conscious effort to understand. Informational listening is less active than many of the other types of listening.


4. Critical Listening

We can be said to be engaged in critical listening when the goal is to evaluate or scrutinize what is being said. Critical listening is a much more active behavior than informational listening and usually involves some sort of problem-solving or decision making.  Critical listening is a skin to critical reading; both involve analysis of the information being received and alignment with what we already know or believe.  Whereas informational listening may be mostly concerned with receiving facts and/or new information – critical listening is about analyzing opinion and making a judgment.

When the word critical is used to describe listening, reading, or thinking it does not necessarily mean that you are claiming that the information you are listening to is somehow faulty or flawed.

5. Therapeutic or Empathic Listening

Empathic listening involves attempting to understand the feelings and emotions of the speaker – to put yourself into the speaker’s shoes and share their thoughts. Empathy is a way of deeply connecting with another person and therapeutic or empathic listening can be particularly challenging.  Empathy is not the same as sympathy, it involves more than being compassionate or feeling sorry for somebody else – it involves a deeper connection – a realization and understanding of another person’s point of view.

Counselors, therapists, and some other professionals use therapeutic or empathic listening to understand and ultimately help their clients.


6. Appreciative Listening

Appreciative listening is listening for enjoyment.  A good example is listening to music, especially as a way to relax.


7. Rapport Listening

When trying to build rapport with others we can engage in a type of listening that encourages the other person to trust and like us. A salesman, for example, may make an effort to listen carefully to what you are saying as a way to promote trust and potentially make a sale.  This type of listening is common in situations of negotiation.


8. Selective Listening

This is a more negative type of listening, it implies that the listener is somehow biased to what they are hearing.  Bias can be based on preconceived ideas or emotionally difficult communicationsSelective listening is a sign of failing communication – you cannot hope to understand if you have filtered out some of the messages and may reinforce or strengthen your bias for future communications.


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