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  • Listening is an intregal aspect of communication. The ability to truly listen to others increases one’s capacity to genuinely connect with people. In addition to enhacing interpersonal relationships, strong listening skills also help people to remember information. Effective listening takes effort and engery, but the rewards gained from being a strong listener are priceless.

    Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

    — Stephen Covey
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  • Professor Peaches’ Tips

    Types of Listening

    Listening is much more complex than it appears on the surface. The goal of listening depends on the context of the situation. Using a listening style that complements the given setting serves to make the overall experience more successful. During interpersonal interactions, listening – when performed in its most effective state – is an active process that takes effort and concentration. However, listening also takes many other forms. Below is an outline of some common ways people listen.

    Active Listening/Attentive Listening

    The listener is paying attention to the words that the speaker is saying. The listener is actively engaged in the conversation and is focused on understanding the other person’s message. Due to the energy and focus of the listener, the individual is more likely to remember the important elements from the conversation. Also, the speaker senses the listener’s interest and engagement in the conversation; the listener helps build the energy of the conversation.

    Passive Listening

    The listener hears what is being said but full attention is not given to the speaker. The listener can repeat back what was stated (“parrot phrasing”) but the level of engagement and interest in conversation is minimal. This style of listening often leads to the speaker to feel that the listener is not interested in the conversation. Retention of information through passive listening is typically low. Passive listening is frequently observed when a listener is distracted or is not interested in the topic the speaker is discussing.

    Empathic / Reflective listening

    Similar to active listening, the listener is truly engaged and focused on what the speaker is saying. However, what distinguishes empathic listening is an individual’s ability to focus on the speaker’s words without judging either the speaker or what the person is saying. The listener is able to put themself in the speaker’s shoes and truly understand where the individual is coming from. Hearing and understanding the other person’s point of view is fundamental for empathic listening. This type of communication helps both the listener and speaker feel connected to one another; empathic listening helps build a strong rapport between both parties. Where active listening provides energy, empathic energy adds trust between a speaker and their audience.


    During appreciative listening, individuals are engaged in listening because they find what they are listening to as enjoyable or rewarding. Examples of appreciate listening include listening to music, watching a movie, or even hearing a compelling storyteller. As listeners, we typically drive this form of listening when we listen to enjoyable music, watch movies we like, or attend performances we want to view.

    Critical (to evaluate a message)

    The goal of critical listening is to evaluate and assess the information being heard. This type of listening lends the listener to analyze the strengths and weakness of what is said and to determine if he/she agrees with the points that are being expressed. Critical listening can be a very powerful skill. However, when used in situations in which a more empathic style of listening may be more helpful, critical listening can then lead to withdrawal or defensiveness of the speaker.

    Selective Listening

    This is a type of passive listening in which the person is only partly listening to what the speaker is saying. This is often done when the listener has an agenda going into the conversation and is looking for the speaker to say something specific. The listener is focused on finding what they are looking for and “selectively” tunes into those parts to “prove” his/her point. Selective listening can also occur in other types of situations, such as when someone focuses on what the speaker is saying for parts he/her find interesting and then zone out for parts of less interest.

    Comprehensive Listening

    The goal of this type of listening is to understand the content of what is being spoken. The listener is focused on both absorbing and understanding the information. While the listener can ask questions to help grasp the concept more thoroughly, with comprehensive listening the goal of the questions is not to prove a point or express one’s opinions. Questions are utilized to help the person better understand what the speaker is saying.

  • Some Common Barriers to Listening

    Listening in the real world is not as easy as one may imagine. There are a variety of barriers that challenge our ability to listen effectively. Some of these obstacles are within our control; however, others are outside of our control. Below is a list of some barriers that commonly stand in the way of achieving effective listening.


    • Focusing on what you are going to say next to the person
    • Thinking about how you may be coming across to the other person
    • Thinking about how the other person is coming across to you
    • Trying to convince the other person your viewpoint is “right”
    • Distracted by thoughts of other things you need to do
    • Daydreaming
    • Focused on wanting to give advice or solve a problem
    • Interrupting the speaker
    • The speaker comes across monotone and dull
    • It is difficult to understand the speaker
    • The subject matter does not apply to the listener
    • The content is either too simplistic or advanced for the listener