There is sound in your silence: How to improve your communication knowing the 8 types of listening

20, 2021

7 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the process of communication between people, listening represents a fundamental aspect. It could be thought that words are the protagonists; however, the true process is based on listening.

In that human act you make yourself present -or absent- in front of the other; we give signals and engage in a dance that, if it is virtuous, can help you substantially improve bonds.

Within the world of listening there is another fundamental aspect, and it is that of attention. It’s about the level of conscious involvement in being fully present. Only in this way is it possible to build a more solid, consistent, authentic and close communication link than if you do it in the midst of interference, distractions and noise.

The different types of “listeners” that we are

According to different authors and currents, there are a series of characteristics depending on the situation and the frame that you give to the conversations from the perspective of listening.

The main forms it acquires are: appreciative, selective, discerning, analytical, synthesized, empathic, attentive and active listening.


You may have heard a lot about active listening, although there is more. It is always good to expand our reference map to be able to navigate in different perspectives and thus, choose the most appropriate way according to the context of the exchange with other people.

Here’s a review of each of these ways:

Appreciative listening

It occurs when you listen without paying attention; we simply hear. Listening is deeper and more engaged. No attention is paid. You “hear” a noise without caring too much what the other says. Example: a customer service person who is not very committed to his task, upon receiving a complaint from a user.

Selective listening

In this case, you select the information that interests you. Faced with some aspects of the message they convey to us, you take that and put the rest aside. That is, you apply filters, and even judgments and interpretations to select. As a result, it is a partial listen, fragmented by your own map of interest. Example: You are going to make a purchase and your absolute priority is a pre-assigned budget that you have in mind; Everything else they tell you will be filtered according to whether or not it fits that number.

Discerning listening

It’s where you listen to the entire message, and then determine which details are relevant to you. Possibly the focus is on the bottom of the matter – hence you need to listen to everything and then select. Example: when you go to a lawyer and he exposes you the pros and cons of a situation you want to solve; you listen to their arguments and positions, and then you choose what is relevant to you.

Analytical listening

For this listening model, you pay attention to the order and meaning of the information, and what you want is to understand the relationship in the ideas to reflect on the message. Generally the left hemisphere of the brain prevails, of a rational type, to separate the information that is received. Example: when they explain how to complete a document or listen to an argument with details. Then, you analyze if those conclusions seem appropriate and you can ask questions to corroborate it.

Synthesized listening

Through the act of listening, you direct the conversation to obtain certain specific information. One technique is to ask direct questions to elicit the ideas of others. Example: you plan to buy or rent an apartment and you ask the realtor questions, which guide the conversation and allow you to quickly draw conclusions from the answers, and your wishes about the property and your perceptions.

Empathic listening

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the place of others, and in this type of listening you achieve a connection that goes beyond the rational: there is an emotional involvement, without this meaning mimicking what happens to the other . You are totally present and you go to the beat of the dialogue that they maintain. You interpret the message from the world of the person who emits it. Example: your partner narrates an event at work that affects him emotionally; and you are there, listening, to provide support and support.

Listen carefully

It is a way of listening effectively, and its characteristic is the presence, in body, spirit and mind, at the service of the act of communication that you are maintaining. It thrives on empathy and the genuine search to understand and connect with the other party. Example: when you listen to a very dear friend who tells you about a situation they are going through, and you are totally in the here and now of the moment.

Active listening

Connected with the attentive and analytical, and aspects of all the others. You could say that this type of listening goes beyond words: you observe the body language, the speed of speaking, the tone of voice, and, of course, the message. There is a deep, attentive, sensitive connection, seeking to interpret from which universe the other person communicates. Attention, concentration and also, the exchange back and forth appears, seeking to understand and interpret the message. Example: when you are with a person from your team, or with your leader, establishing the objectives of a project, in addition to paying attention to details, you decode what he says, how he says it, which barriers he expresses and which he does not, and what the unsaid that is beneath words.

10 tips to learn to listen

Image: Official via Unsplash

  1. Avoid interrupting; let the others finish talking. Ask the other person for permission to do so.
  2. Eliminate judgments and preconceptions for pure listening.
  3. Take notes of the main concepts to continue talking.
  4. Listen 80% of the time; 20% speak.
  5. Ask transformative questions that invite action and dig deep. Don’t guess or “read the mind” of the other person.
  6. In the event of disagreements, express that you understand their point of view, even if you would like to share a different look.
  7. Conversations are prepared, especially if they are difficult.
  8. In complex situations, express the fact without judgment; then how do you feel; Next, what is your need in this regard, and finally, a specific and concrete request to the other party.
  9. Take care to eliminate noise and interference that make it difficult to hear.
  10. Maintain permanent eye contact: it brings you closer and helps you connect better.

And you, do you just listen or do you listen?

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