Listening – Types, Barriers, Effective Listening

Listening plays a crucial role when it comes to Oral Communication. While a speaker communicates the intended message orally, the listener plays an equally crucial role to make the communication a successful one. Speaking and Listening go hand in hand. The success of a Communicator lies mainly in the patience level of a receiver. While good listeners elicit the maximum value out of the speakers, bad listeners tend to spoil the very intention of oral communication.

The Art of Listening

Owing to the overflowing nature of information on a day to day basis and the limitations of human memory, it becomes mandatory to improve listening skills in a conscious manner. It is a crucial skill set that adds immense value to communication. It can be of many types depending upon the purpose, context and characteristics of the speaker and listener. It can be an internal or external activity.

Types of Listening

(1) Pretending to Listen – As the very name suggests, many a times people pretend to listen to what is being communicated. They nod their head or show bodily gestures to create an impression that they listen very carefully. However, they are only pretending to  listen and no real assimilation of information happens.

(2) Selective Listening – It is usually highly subjective in nature. Listeners who belong to this type take in only what they want to assimilate. They relate what is communicated to their own life situations and personality. Selective Listening reinforces one’s own ideologies and tends to restrain people from learning new things as they assimilate what is communicated in an incomplete manner.

(3) Emphatic Listening – This is one of the best ways to listen. People who listen emphatically are passionate about what is being communicated. They strive hard to listen in a careful manner so they can understand the communicator in the best possible way. Such listeners understand people more than they yearn for themselves to be understood.

(4) Attentive Listening – It involves keen understanding of the words communicated by the Speaker rather than understanding the speaker himself. This is the best way to listen and helps to reach the crux of what is being communicated in a perfect manner.

(5) Intuitive Listening – It happens more internally than externally. This involves concentrating on the internal voice silencing the other distractions cropping up every now and then. Listening to the dialogues happening internally requires a lot of focus and high levels of control.

(6) Deep Listening – This can also be termed as Inspired Listening. People involved in such type of communication, listen to each other passionately to understand and to be understood in a mutual manner. This way to listen is highly synergistic in nature and gets accelerated through the communication which actually happens between the minds and hearts of people involved.

The above list substantiates the different ways to listen prevalent in communication. However, many factors act as barriers to communication in a typical realistic environment.

Barriers to Effective Listening

  1. Hearing Problems can hinder effective comprehension of information

  2. Vague or boring information may cause the speaker to lose interest

  3. Information overload may lead to misunderstanding or misinterpretation by the speaker

  4. Listener with a superiority complex and self-centered attitude may choose to ignore ideas of others

  5. Negative perceptions due to cultural or background differences between the speaker and the listener may lead to selective listening

  6. Wrong assumptions on the part of sender or receiver may hinder effective listening.

  7. A person lacking listening skills does not listen in an effective manner and tends to spoil the very intention of oral communication.

Tips to listen effectively

Listening is not an easy task. It is as tough as speaking itself. Some important tips are provided below for training oneself to listen in an effective manner.

  1. Be physically and mentally present in the arena where the communication is happening. Being physically present while allowing the mind to wander around does not help to listen in a effective manner.

  2. Talking and listening do not get well with each other. Avoid talking when something is being communicated

  3. Ensure that you listen in a deep and attentive manner rather than in a partial or selective manner

  4. Ensure that negative bodily movements and thoughts are avoided in a conscious manner since these may act as hindrance to listen effectively

  5. Avoid judging or jumping to conclusions while the communication is still on and not completed.

  6. Getting out of any fixed mind sets and ideas that are preconceived about what is communicated will help in listening effectively

  7. Avoid interrupting the speaker till he finishes communicating what he intends to communicate

  8. Avoid getting distracted with other electronic or environmental factors which may hinder the effective listening process

  9. Make the communicator understand that you are interested in what he is communicating by nodding your head or questioning in regular intervals in a genuine manner. This will in turn help you to listen to what is communicated in an effective manner

  10. Make the communicator feel at ease through a smiling face and light body language. This will make the communicator speak in a fearless manner while the same will sustain your interest throughout the time period.

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