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Listening Styles: Helping or Hurting Communication?


Do the lines of communication get crossed between you and your customers? Or even your coworkers? Often when there is conflict, the origins can be found in a miscommunication. Was it a problem explaining the situation? Or was there a problem with listening?

In this article, we'll focus on the listening end of miscommunications, and how understanding your listening style and identifying others can solve an array of problems.

There are four styles of listeners, and depending on which style you employ, you may be helping communication or stopping it completely.

The ‘competitive listener’ may be making eye contact, they may appear to be listening, but they are actually waiting for a break in the conversation to jump in with their own thoughts and ideas. After all, they’re much smarter than you.

The ‘combative listener’ is similar to the competitive, but they don't wait for a break in the conversation. They appear to not be really listening at all - they may interrupt, talk over you and worst of all, not even realize they're doing it.

The ‘passive listener’ may actually be listening, but gives no indication. They don’t acknowledge points, they don’t ask questions. Their eyes and minds may be wandering away from the conversation.

Finally, the ‘active listener’ is involved with small interjections of acknowledgements and validations. They ask clarifying questions, they paraphrase the speakers words back to them to ensure understanding. They’re listening with their whole being and are completely involved in the conversation.

After the four descriptions, it's rather obvious which type of listener is the most effective. The question is, what kind of listener are you? If you're not actively listening in every exchange, how can you improve? Most importantly, how can reassure your customers that you are an active listener?