What kind of listener are you?

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Ernest Hemingway once said: “When people talk, listen completely, most people never do.”

As much as the technology with which we communicate has evolved, it would seem that the most basic component of communication – the ability to listen – still lags behind!

Listening styles

The experts have divided listening up into five basic styles. While people may generally use a specific style, good listeners can adapt their listening styles to different situations.


Business consultant, Edward Dvorak, believes that appreciative listeners are the least critical as they’re seeking to find a measure of pleasure in listening. Typically this style is most appropriate in a relaxed situation when listening to a joke or to a concert. This style doesn’t work well in meetings or training sessions as people employing this style may not be paying attention to detail.


The Empathetic listener aims to convey understanding and care, really tuning in to people’s feelings and body language. This style of listening aims to get at the underlying emotions a person is conveying.  Whilst this style of listening is extremely valuable in counseling or care professions, it doesn’t work well when dealing with conversations in which a lot of fact and figures are shared. The reason being that there is no emotional subtext and empathetic listeners will likely lose interest in the conversation.


Dvorak compares Comprehensive listeners to Mr Spock from Star Trek: they’re not focused on emotions or body language at all, nor are they particularly relaxed, they’re too intent on understanding exactly what’s being said.

According to Dvorak: “They prefer facts and information presented in a linear, logical fashion with no jumps or digressions”.  When using this listening style people will seek to relate what they’re hearing to their own experiences or knowledge, striving to see any possible connections.


OSP Magazine refers to listeners using this style as the ‘note takers’. This group, or people employing this style at a given time, is very interested in the minutiae of the subject matter. These listeners are trying to find the main message being conveyed and tend to ask a lot of questions.


When speaking to someone who is an Evaluative listener, the chances are that the speaker will feel like the person is more interested in forming a reply, as opposed to actually listening. People using this listening style tend to interrupt speakers frequently and can miss important information whilst they’re thinking of a reply or rebuttal.

Improving your listening skills

While most people have a dominant listening style they can use a different style based on the situation they find themselves in. It is also possible to enhance listening ability through listening programs and conscious effort.  Mind Tools offer a few pointers to becoming a better listener.

Pay Attention: make eye contact and focus on what’s being said (not on a reply) and pay attention to the speaker’s body language.

Show That You’re Listening: this can be done by nodding, using appropriate facial expressions or small vocal expressions like “yes, tell me more”.

Listeners are also encouraged to provide feedback by asking questions or providing a summary, to defer judgment – by not interrupting – and to respond appropriately.

Just like riding a bike, good listening takes a lot of practice and dedication. Learning how to listen effectively, and using the right listening style in any given situation is a invaluable life skill.

About the Author:

Pippa Green is a London-based blogger who has recently attended sessions at a local hearing centre in an attempt to improve her hearing.

If you want to learn more about the non-verbal communication, you can visit Communicate non-verbaly

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