Listening skills are crucial to a manager. Many managers are good at hearing but poor
at listening. Hearing is largely a passive activity; we hear even when we sleep. Listening on the other
hand requires involvement and action.
Listening and hearing are not the same. Hearing is the first stage of listening. Hearing
occurs when your ears pick up sound waves which are then transported to your brain. This stage is
your sense of hearing.
Listening is a communication process and, to be successful, is an active process. In
other words, you must be an active participant in this communication process. In active listening,
meaning and evaluation of a message must take place before a listener can respond to a speaker.
Therefore, the listener is actively working while the speaker is talking
Let us consider the breakdown of the various common elements involved in
40% - Listening
35% - Talking
16% - Reading
9% - Writing
Thus we can clearly observe that listening is indeed an important communication skill which has to
LEVELS OF LISTENING
Listening on and off: Tuning in and tuning out: Being aware of the presence of others, but mainly
paying attention to yourself.
Half listening: Following the discussion only long enough to get a chance to talk.
Quiet, passive listening: Listening, but not responding. Little effort is made to listen; actually,
hearing is going on but very little real listening is going on. Often, a person at this level is making
believe that he is paying more attention while really, he or she is thinking of other things. They are
generally more interested in talking, rather than listening.
Hearing sounds and words, but not really listening: At this level, people stay at the surface of
communication and do not listen to the deeper meaning of what is being said. They are trying to
hear what the speaker is saying, but they are not making the effort to understand what the speaker
means. They tend to be more concerned with content rather than feelings. They do not really
participate in the conversation.
This level of listening can be dangerous because misunderstandings may occur since the listener is
only slightly concentrating on what is said, the speaker may have the false sense that the other
person is really listening, when he is not.
Active Listening: At this level, people try to put themselves in the speakers place – they try to see
things from the other person’s point of view. Some characteristics of this level include: taking in
only the main ideas, acknowledging and answering, not letting yourself be distracted, paying
attention to the speaker’s total communication – including body language.
Active listening requires that you listen not only for the content of what is being spoken but, more
importantly, for what the meaning and feelings of the speaker are. You do this by showing that you
are really listening both verbally and nonverbally.
TYPES OF LISTENING
In an organization we often find ourselves doing one of the following three types of listening:
Informational listening: The goal of informational listening is to understand and
remember what is important to in a message. How well we remember and understand the
message determines our success as an informational listener.
Most informational listening takes place in formal or semi formal environments
such as meetings, conferences, seminars etc.
For example, we listen to lectures or instructions from teachers—and what we
learn depends on how well we listen. In the workplace, we listen to understand new practices
or procedures—and how well we perform depends on how well we listen.
Evaluative listening: Evaluative listening is particularly pertinent when the other person is trying
to persuade us, perhaps to change our behavior and maybe even to change our beliefs
The goal of evaluative listening is to make a decision or accept or reject an idea.
Making a right decision often depends on how well you listen.
Typically also we weigh up the pros and cons of an argument, determining whether it
makes sense logically as well as whether it is helpful to us.
Evaluative listening is also called critical, judgmental or interpretive listening.
Empathetic listening: A manager usually uses this kind of listening when acting as a
soundboard for other’s ideas or when coaching or counseling someone. Listening to the
feelings of the speaker is an important part of this type of listening.
It is listening effectively to understand the person fully both
emotionally as well as intellectually.
In addition to these three main types of listening, there are several other types of listening
such as those listed below:
Where the listener is able to identify and distinguish inferences or emotions
through the speaker’s change in voice tone, their use of pause, etc. Some
people are extremely sensitive in this way, while others are less able to pick
up these subtle cues. Where the listener may recognize and pinpoint a
specific engine fault, a familiar laugh from a crowded theatre or their own
child’s cry in a noisy playground. This ability may be affected by hearing
Where the listener gains pleasure/satisfaction from listening to a certain
type of music for example. Appreciative sources might also include particular
charismatic speakers or entertainers. These are personal preferences and
may have been shaped through our experiences and expectations.
Biased listening happens when the person hears only what they want to hear, typically
misinterpreting what the other person says based on the stereotypes and other biases that
they have. Such biased listening is often very evaluative in nature.
Pretend listening: The listener behaves as though the communicated message is listened to
and understood through facial expressions while in reality the listener is not listening at all.
The listeners often fix their eyes on the speaker and try to project themselves as good
Selective listening: In this case the listener does not listen to the full message being
communicated, instead he/she selects a desired part of the message and analyses it and
ignores the remaining part of the message.
Listening skills Yes No
Do you concentrate ?
Do you acknowledge ?
Do you exhibit emotional control ?
Do you structure your listening ?
Can you empathize with the listener ?
Do you attach meaning :
Do you evaluate the message?
Do you respond and remember?
Are you and the speaker exchanging non-verbals ?
Do you judge content, not delivery ?
Do you take notes?
Do you repeat information?
Do you avoid
Do you provide feedback by paraphrasing?
1) Hearing problem: It interferes with the process of listening but such a problem
is physiological and not intentional
2) Rapid thought process: The speaker talks about 125 words per minute while the
listener can process information at the rate of 500 words per minute. This
leaves ample of idle time left for the mind to wander to other matters rather
than concentrate on the speaker’s message. Usually this takes place when the
speaker speaks slowly.
3) Ego: (Self- centered attitude)
Thinking that one’s ideas are more important than those of the other or I’m always
right and the others are wrong is a major stumbling block in the way of listening.
Effective listening needs an open mind and a self free from negative emotions
4) Information overload:
It's a fact that we give too much information in a speech or presentation. We use
extensive bullet points or lists such as these! We often have more than one
PowerPoint slide for each 5 minutes of talk (sometimes many more). We use too
many examples, analogies or case studies. In all cases the listening powers of the
audience are being dealt a disservice.
Not all our public speaking will be in a rarefied auditorium with pitch perfect
acoustics. This is a barrier which most of the speakers face. The only solution is --
speak up, tone up and emphasize the key points.
6) Selective listening:
Due to various reasons listeners tend to listen to and interpret a desired part of the
message and leave the undesired part, hence the entire process of communication
7) Cultural differences:
Present business organizations with their operations transcending local or regional
boundaries employ people from different regions or communities with different
cultural backgrounds if they try and speak a common language their accent is different
this creates a problem in listening to people from different cultures.
8) Hasty evaluation
The listener interprets or comprehends the message before listening to the entire
Other barriers are :
• forming a judgment or evaluation before we understand what is being said
• making unjustified inferences about the meaning of what is being said
• attributing our own thoughts and ideas to the speaker causing distortion
• being inattentive
• having a closed mind
• fear of being changed ourselves
• excessive and incessant talking
Guidelines to effective listening
• Stop talking- listen openly and with empathy to the other person
• Be patient ad give the speaker sufficient time to clear his point; do not interrupt
• Ask the other person for as much detail as he/she can provide; paraphrase what
the other is saying to make sure you understand it and check for understanding
• Respond in an interested way that shows you understand the problem and the
• Plan to report the message to someone within 8 hrs. This coaxes a listener to
concentrate and remember.
• Attend to non-verbal cues, body language, not just words; pay attention to both
emotional and cognitive messages (eg. anger)
• Stay in an active body state to aid listening; fight distractions; use eye contact,
• Ask the other for his views or suggestion
• Be an opportunist- Do your best to find areas of interest between the speaker
and you. Ask yourself “what can I get, out of what is said?”
• maintain the self confidence and self-esteem of the other person
• lead by example
• (at work) take notes; decide on a specific follow-up action and date
• Be careful that your listening is not selective or partial but total and deep