Appreciative Listening: Tips for Aspiring Leaders

Key takeaways

  • Appreciative listening means actually being personally invested in the speaker's message.
  • Appreciative listening is all subjective.
  • The three factors that make up this type of listening are perception, presentation, and previous experiences.
  • See more stories on Matter's blog.

What is appreciative listening?

Appreciate listening can be described as thoroughly enjoying what is being said by the speaker. Now, how does that differ from other types of listening and just listening in general? Well, appreciative listening means giving your undivided attention because you're personally invested in the speaker's message.

More importantly, how the message impacts you, makes you feel, and inspires you is what distinguishes appreciative listening from other types of listening. In this instance, appreciative listening not only places the focus the speaker but the listener as well.

Appreciative listening examples

Examples of appreciative listening include, but aren't limited to, are:

  • Music
  • Guided mediation
  • Podcasts
  • Speeches

One thing to note is that appreciative listening is subjective. This means what you hear is dependent on the speaker's thoughts and feelings. That's why instead of forming perceived notions about the speaker, tap into your appreciative listening skills by understanding these three factors: perception, presentation, and previous experience.

Three factors of appreciative listening

The three elements that determine appreciative listening are perception, presentation, and previous experiences. Not only do these factors influence what you hear but how you interpret the message.


How you perceive the message is a vital factor of appreciative listening. As a listener, your opinion of what you're hearing is subject to change throughout the conversation. Take listening to a peer during a presentation as an example. Their tone, body language, and delivery will determine whether or not the listener is engaged.

Remember, your perception is a sensory experience of the world. As a listener,  your perception guides your attitude, feelings, how you react to the world, and what you hear. In the workplace, our perceptions tend to be the compass. When practicing your appreciative listening skills, take moments to soak in the details and zoom out to look at the big picture.


Like we mentioned, delivery matters. To be exact, presentation matters in how the listeners interprets the message. That means being conscious of the medium and setting. For example, when you're listening to your favorite song, it's different hearing it from your headphones versus at a concert. Those are two distinct experiences.

When it comes to the workplace, where you conduct your presentation or meeting matters immensely. Presenting your findings in a noisy common area as opposed to a private conference will impact how your colleagues will absorb the information. Part of appreciative listening means being wary of the temperature, space, style, and personality of the speaker.

"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less."

— Diogenes, Greek philosopher

Previous Experience

Similar to perception, previous experiences allows the listener to appreciate the message in advance because they’ve already been exposed to it. That bake-in time allows the message to marinate so that the listener can appreciative the message even more. And not to mention, focus on the small details the second or third time.

However, just because you've been experienced this message before doesn't mean you shouldn't be open to hearing new ideas or concepts. For example, if you attend a daily standup where your teams shares similar day-to-day tasks, this is your opportunity ask questions, sync with new team members, and take time to explore ways to overcome roadblocks.

Food for thought

Only you can decide what you appreciate and what you don’t. While those around you can suggest new ideas, the onus is ultimately on you. Your peers or friends can't always influence that sense of enjoyment. That's why when it comes to work, as an aspiring leader you have to package your message in a way for your team to be invested personally.

Be aware of your team goals when you’re going to engage in appreciative listening. If you're looking to expand your team's knowledge base, take the opportunity to make standups, one-on-one meetings, projects, and any task an enjoyable experience. That's when you'll see ears perk up.

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