Effective Listening

Listening and Speaking are the two main tools of effective communication, that work simultaneously. Every person likes a good listener. Also, he has more influence on others than the speaker.

Listening is a deliberate effort that is not identical to hearing. Hearing is a physical activity that involves sound entering into a person’s ears. But in the case of listening, we use our brain, by paying attention to the subject matter and interpreting what is being said. Listening comprises of two stages:

  • On the speaker’s side: Encoding and transmission of the message.
  • On the receiver’s side: Decoding and responding with feedback.

As per the researchers, a normal human being spends 45% of his communication time in listening, 30% on speaking, 16% on reading, and 9% on writing.

What is Effective Listening?

Effective listening is the one that needs openness of the mind, concentration, and a continuous mental classification and association of the message which is heard. For the purpose of listening, we need to train our ears and question ourselves, as to why we want to listen to something or somebody. Listening means paying thoughtful attention to the statement of the speaker.


Listening involves the act of carefully hearing the speaker. It takes place when the receiver of the message is willing as well as ready to learn or be influenced or changed by the message that the speaker conveys to him.

Process of Listening

The process of listening involves four stages:effective-listening-process

  1. Sensing: Sensing implies being in tune with the speaker, i.e. the listener is ready and knows that he has to listen. It involves the sensory perception of the sound.
  2. Interpreting and evaluating: Listening is effective when the receiver transforms the words he hears into ideas. Further, the ideas do or do not make sense. The receiver of the ideas retains the useful information, sets apart the unnecessary or useless information, and remembers the unclear or incomplete information.
  3. Remembering: Recorded message makes the listening more effective. In other words, one can take notes or create a picture in his/her mind to keep the same in their memory. However, written notes often halt the communication by putting the speaker on alert.
  4. Responding: Spontaneous response by the listener of the message, which reassures the speaker of the message. Further, to get the required information and also clarity about the picture, the listener may ask various questions.

Types of Listening

The different types of listening are explained hereunder:types-of-listening

Passive Listening

At the lowest level, such a form of listening encompasses the little degree of engagement or intensity of listening, wherein the receiver of the message seems to be listening to the message but without any response. That is to say, the listener does not make any conscious effort to absorb the message. It stops at the hearing. So, the receiver of the message may be physically present but mentally absent.

The reason for passive listening may be fatigue, ill health, disregard of the speaker, or lack of interest in the matter. It also takes place when the speaker is unable to reach out to the wavelength of the speaker.

This is a situation of half listening and half thinking or sleeping, i.e. the person may be engrossed in his/her own thoughts.

Responsive Listening

Such a type of listening involves verbal or non-verbal signals from the listener that he is paying attention to the message like a head nod or ‘oh’. However, the comprehension is low, because the listener cares more about the content and not the feelings of the speaker and does not take part in the conversation.

This results in a misunderstanding on the side of the speaker as the listener focuses more on the words spoken.

Selective Listening

As the name suggests, in selective listening the listener pays attention to a selective portion of information or words and phrases only. It is partial listening, i.e. people listen to what they want to listen to. This means that the listener concentrates only on that part of the message which interests him and not on the complete message.

The listener here tunes himself in and out. It happens when the listener is not in the condition to concentrate. Such listening relies on the objective of the listener.

Attentive Listening

Such listening entails asking questions and drawing further information from the speaker. The listener is wholly engrossed in the conversation and interprets the message at a deeper level. Asking questions lets the listener get the desired information relating to something which has value.

It is a higher level of listening, as it helps in collecting reliable facts, but it does not pay much attention to the emotions, feelings, and situation of the other person. It can be manipulative and forceful.

Active Listening

Such listening involves engaging their intellect along with their emotions while listening to the message. Listeners attempt to understand the content, comprehend in the way it is directed, and draw conclusions. Here questions are not only asked for probing but also for getting the message in a clearer sense.

The receiver of the message reflects regard for the speaker, focuses on the message, encourages the speaker, and makes it easier to deliver the message successfully.

As the interaction lets the speaker know that he is being heard properly. This may have manipulative motives or tactics.

Emphatic Listening

It is the listening at the deepest level, wherein the listener attempts to listen to the message and understand the intent of the speaker.  Emphatic Listening not just encompasses understanding the content and the emotion behind the message. But it also empathizes from the point of view of the speaker. It is free from any judgment or personal prejudices.

However, it does not necessarily mean that the listener is in agreement with the statements of the speaker. Rather it involves empathy with the speaker’s perspective.

In this, the listener pays attention to the non-verbal signals like:

  1. Tone of voice
  2. Pace
  3. Volume
  4. Style
  5. Emphasis
  6. Body language
  7. Facial expression
  8. Posture

Importance of Effective Listening

  • Listening is a continuous exercise of all living organisms, which plays a key role in the activity of communication. So, it won’t be wrong to say that on an average a man spends more than 50% of his working day in listening.
  • Whether you are a sales personnel, a human resource executive, or a manager, every job requires listening. By listening to the needs of the people, one can obviously serve better.
  • Misunderstanding arises between the sender and receiver due to poor listening. Neutral words which are meant to give a positive message may have a negative interpretation. This is because of the wrong perception and prejudices of the receiver. Effective listening is only possible when the listener is open-minded and is free from negative emotions.
  • There is an intimate relationship between learning and listening. One learns and understands things more effectively when he practices focused listening. The mind and heart of a human being are more receptive to learning new opinions and ideas when we emphasize listening first than speaking.

Wrap Up

Spoken words are useless unless there is another person on the opposite end listening. Effective Listening results in obtaining more information, gaining the confidence of people, reducing conflicts, and also motivating others.

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