Research shows that we filter out or change the intended message of what we hear in 70% of our communication. That's a lot of the time! If we filter out or change it that often it is REALLY important that we learn how to send and receive messages to make sure we are being heard and are hearing others!

The reason we filter out or change the meaning so often is that we just don't get it - no matter how much someone else might want us to!

It's very difficult to really hear if we are not using a listening approach that is appropriate for the environment and message being communicated. We are not all the same and we don't all listen in the same manner. There are different styles and approaches to listening and while we can use a variety of styles, we tend to each use some more than others. You can adapt your current listening approach to the needs of almost any situation with appropriate insight and motivation.

There are a lot of reasons we may tune out or not hear all of a conversation, such as:

  • The purpose of the conversation is different from your purpose. For example, your co-worker may want to share with you all the infinite details and facts about something and you really aren't interested in all the details.
  • Understimulation - This would be when you find something very boring and tend to tune out and daydream.
  • Overstimulation - When there is too much noise or distractions - just too much going on to pay attention.
  • Pace and Delivery - This is when the other person talks way to fast or way too slow, and you just tune out.

Here are the five listening styles:

Appreciative Listener - This person is more likely to listen if they feel inspired by what they are hearing and/or if they are enjoying themselves. They are not necessarily interested in the details. It is the more overall impression of the experience.

Empathic Listener - This style is often a sounding board for others. They offer support and encouragement. They focus on the feelings revealed by the person they are listening to. If you are often approached by people who need to confide or vent about something, you will know that's you! This style isn't necessarily interested in giving advice. They are more interested in really hearing and understanding the feelings someone else is expressing.

Discerning Listener - This style wants to get all of the information, sometimes on computer so they can capture it all. Distractions can be very annoying when using this listening approach. An example would be when other people are talking in class and their disturbance is making it difficult to get all the notes.

Comprehensive Listener - This style can recognize key points between one message and another even when the speaker is disorganized. They can also recognize when someone doesn't understand what is being said and can re-explain it clearly in their own words. An example of this style would be to say: "This is like the XYZ project but with this change."

Evaluative Listener - When listening with this approach the listener will not automatically accept what is being said as true just because an expert says it. They may "mentally argue". If they disagree, they will quit listening. They will also be very skeptical if the speaker is overly enthusiastic about something. This approach is very helpful when evaluating something and making a decision about it.

Remember that in any situation, regardless of the style of listening you use most frequently, it is important to:

  1. Give your full attention to the speaker
  2. Ask questions for clarity
  3. Summarize and paraphrase
  4. Tune into words, feelings and body language

There is an ancient Chinese Proverb that really highlights the importance of listening and communication...

It is the province of knowledge to speak..
But it is the privilege of wisdom to Listen.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Cullen is President of Quantum Learning Solutions, Inc. She is considered an expert in the use of blended learning methodologies for lasting organizational change. Susan has a Master's Degree in Organizational Development and over 18 years experience in workforce development and learning. For more information, contact 1-800-683-0681 or