Types of listening

There are six types of hearing, ranging from basic discrimination of sounds to deep communication.

Discriminatory listening
Discriminative listening is the most basic type of listening, through which differences are identified between different sounds. If you cannot hear the difference, then you cannot understand the meaning expressed by such difference. We learn to discriminate between sounds in our own language, and later are unable to discriminate between sounds in other languages. This is one of the reasons why a person from one country finds it difficult to speak another language perfectly, as they are unable to distinguish the nuances required in that language. Hearing is a visual as well as an auditory act, as we communicate so much through body language. Thus we need to be able to discriminate between muscular and skeletal movements that convey different meanings.

Comprehension listening
The next step beyond discriminating between different sounds and sights is to make sense of them. Understanding meaning requires first having at our fingertips a dictionary of words and all the rules of grammar and syntax by which we understand what others are saying.

Critical listening
Critical listening is listening to evaluate and judge, forming opinions about what is being said. Judgment includes assessing strengths and weaknesses, agreement and approval. This form of listening requires significant real-time cognitive effort as the listener analyzes what is being said, relating it to existing knowledge and norms, while simultaneously listening to moving words from the speaker.

Biased listening
Biased listening occurs when the person hears only what they want to hear, usually misinterpreting what the other person says based on stereotypes and other biases. Such biased listening is often very evaluative in nature.

Evaluative listening
In evaluative listening, or critical listening, we make judgments about what the other person is saying. We want to verify the truth of what is being said. We judge what they say against our values, evaluating them as good or bad, worthy or unworthy.

Evaluative listening is especially relevant when the other person is trying to persuade us, perhaps to change our behavior and even to change our beliefs. In this, we also discriminate between subtleties of language and understand the underlying meaning of what is said. Usually we consider the merits and demerits of an argument, deciding whether it makes logical sense and whether it is helpful to us.

Appreciative listening
In appreciative listening, we seek information that will be appreciated, for example that helps meet our needs and goals. We use appreciative listening when we hear good music, poetry, or even the stirring words of a great leader.

Empathetic listening
In empathic listening, we care for the other person and show this concern as we pay close attention and express our sorrow for their illness and joy in their joy.

Empathetic listening
When we listen empathetically, we go beyond sympathy and genuinely seek to understand how others are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the subtleties of sensory cues. When we are truly empathetic, we actually feel what they are feeling.

Therapeutic listening
In therapeutic listening, the listener aims not only to empathize with the speaker but also to use this deeper connection to help the speaker understand, change, or develop.

Dialogic listening
The word ‘dialogue’ is derived from the Greek words ‘dia’, meaning ‘through’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘word’. Conversational listening in this way means learning through conversation and an engaged exchange of ideas and information in which we actively seek to learn more about the person and how they think.

Relationship listening
Sometimes listening is the most important thing to build or sustain a relationship. Relationship listening is also important in areas such as negotiation and sales, where it helps if the other person likes and trusts you.

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