Types of Listening to Build Your Communication Skills

April 29, 2021
4 Min Read
Photo by
Michael Buchino

Developing deep listening skills are essential to your interpersonal relationships. The main types of listening that should be on your radar are appreciative, comprehensive, critical, and empathic listening. Whether you’re networking, starting a new job, or collaborating with colleagues, strong listening skills can help you effectively communicate in professional settings.

4 types of listening

Many of us take listening for granted. And that's the reality, it’s just happens sometimes. But we're here to help you build good listening habits and break bad ones in the workplace. To start, there are 4 types of listening you should have under your belt: appreciative, critical, empathic, and selective listening.

Appreciative listening

Definition: When you listen for appreciation you're listening for enjoyment.

Example: Think about the music or podcast you listen to every day. You usually listen because you just enjoy it. There's no external factor forcing you to listen. The same can be said for appreciative listening when you're having a conversation with a colleague or friend. You listen because you're personally invested in them.

Benefits in the workplace: This type of listening is important when connecting to your peers on a personal level. Part of building rapport and a healthy work environment is getting to know your team beyond their job title. As a result, this type of deep listening will not only inspire you but also lead you to influence others in your sphere.

Comprehensive listening

Definition: This type of listening is when the listener is trying to fully understand the situation, thoughts, and actions of the speaker.

Example: Think about taking notes when you're in a meeting. The speaker is conveying their main points, and as the listener you're jotting down the notes to get the gist of the message.

Benefits in the workspace: This is one of the more difficult types of listening because it requires you to not only concentrate but to actively participate in the process. Many times, the listener may multitask by taking notes and actively listening. Practicing comprehensive listening will allow you to ask thoughtful question leading to more fruitful work discussions.

Critical listening

Definition: While this type of listening may seem similar to comprehensive listening, it actually requires you to analyze and evaluate every part of the conversation. And as the a critical listener, it's your goal to evaluate what is being said and decide if the information is valid.

Example: If you're about to embark on a new team project, you probably use some form of critical thinking skills when you're researching or even receiving guidance from a peer. Critical listening may also entail fact-checking, looking up studies, and conducting ERG interviews.

Benefits in the workspace: When engaging in critical listening, you're also critically thinking. You're making mental judgments based on what you see, hear, and read. This skill can help you make sound judgements, ask probing questions, and challenge the status quo within your company.

Empathic listening

Definition: During this type of listening you're trying to align yourself with the speaker. Here, your goal is to focus on the speaker's perspective, not on yourself. In a sense, tapping into your empathy skills.

Example: Your co-worker is opening up about their struggles and obstacles from a bad week. You as their support system, step into their shoes to get a better understanding of what they're going through, especially during a pandemic. The idea is to remove any bias or skepticism and provide any support.

Benefits in the workspace: During this time, focus your attention on the speaker. Try to place yourself in their shoes. When you listen empathically you're showing mutual concern. Not to mention, listening empathically can establish an emotional connection between you and your peer. When you find the similarities between your individual experiences, this can lead to a more heartfelt and compassionate response.

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