The way you listen and what you listen for matters when listening. As a passive communication skill, you are the only person who can measure if YOU are really listening.There are various types of listening and a knowledge of the various types will help you greatly as you continue on your life’s journey. Listening will help you in making friends, learning about yourself, others and the environment in which you find yourself. Your ability to listen will to a great extent deepen your knowledge of life and enhances your self esteem. The world love listeners and as a wag once said, ‘ God wants us to listen more than we speak, that’s why he gave us two ears and one mouth’. The ability to make a distinction between the different types of listening helps YOU to develop your listening skills. SO, WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT LISTENING STYLES?   To answer this question let us go through this material that I got from a book on Listening.

Types of listening

We listen because we want to hear something. Even when listening conditions are less than ideal, we put forth extra effort to screen out distractions and focus on the source of input if we have sufficient motivation. Listening involves several mental processes. The amount of effort and mental involvement varies considerably from one listening to another.

Passive Listening

In passive listening, people hear. They physically receive the sounds but have little or no mental response. This type of behaviour ranges from marginal listening in which listeners are only vaguely aware of sounds in the background, to hearing clearly but not processing messages contained in the sounds. For example, if you have the radio on while you are studying, you may be aware that there is music playing. However, if someone asks you to name the song that is playing you would have to “tune in” before you could answer. At other times, you may be fully aware of your sound environment but make no effort to react to the sounds or even to remember them. Passive listening can be deceptive. We think children are listening because they sit quietly and appear attentive. Actually, they may not be listening at all. Or they may be listening at the passive level and gaining little.

 Listening for Information

Listeners attend to stated information and concentrate on remembering the relevant interaction. As much information as possible is held in memory while the listener continues to collect additional knowledge.

Listening for information involves these cognitive abilities

  • recalling known word meaning
  • deducing the meaning of unknown words form context
  • understanding the relationship of words in a sentence
  • recalling specifically stated facts and details
  • forming directions
  • para-phrasing spoken messages

Listening for understanding

Listening for understanding involves the linking of ideas. It requires listeners to make associations and to see the relationships among ideas and pieces of information. Listeners use their information to solve problems or to gain a comprehensive picture of a subject. In listening for understanding, one uses the cognitive abilities for informational listening plus these:

  • associating ideas and information
  • relating past knowledge to new information
  • recognizing relationships of sequence, time and space
  •  and cause the effect summarizing
  • comparing and contrasting
  • identifying main idea
  • classifying and organising supporting information
  • making references
  • predicting or hypothesizing outcomes.

  Critical Listening

At the critical level, listeners must analyze what they hear and make judgement about it. Critical listeners do not accept information at face value they probe below the surface. They assume a questioning attitude, looking for faulty logic, insufficient evidence, emotional appeal etc.In addition to the lower cognitive abilities, critical listening involves, determining relevant and irrelevant information,

  • separating fact from inference,
  • supposition or opinion
  • identifying author’s purpose (to inform, to explain, to convince, to entertain, to express feelings
  • seeing implications
  • recognizing different points of view detecting bias prejudice or propaganda.
  • comparing what is said with previous knowledge judging validity of information and generalizations.
  • drawing conclusions
  • making recommendations

Appreciative Listening

Appreciative listening, the highest level, cuts across all cognitive and affective levels of listening. It involves a personal response to what is heard. Thus, appreciative listening will vary according to the listener and the situation. We may simply appreciate the richness and melodic intonation of someone’s voice, or we may appreciate an opera because we have the musical background to examine critically the composition, the sagging, the lighting, the costuming, the acting and the musical abilities of the actors and the orchestra. Our appreciation of what we hear reflects our reasons for listening, our background experiences and our skill in listening.



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