What is critical listening? (+13 other types of listening)

In this brief guide, we are going to discuss critical listening, what it is and how to practice critical listening and the art of criticism. 

What is critical listening? 

Critical listening is also known as evaluative listening.

We listen, evaluate and criticize the received message so that we can make the appropriate decisions regarding the information we just received. 

An important aspect of critical listening is to differentiate between facts and words charged with emotion or manifestations, typical of intentionality.

It is always important to focus on the goal of the message.

To evaluate and criticize we must consider the judgments and the intention of a message, as well as our own criteria. Not everyone will always agree with what I say and vice versa.

Assertive behaviour allows us to reflect on the facts and provide objective information, which is the idea of ​​evaluative listening and is not always followed since it is inevitable not to include our own assessments.

The art of criticism. How to practice critical listening?

Critical listening can be done with a lot of art and then it becomes a very helpful message.

The term “constructive criticism” sounds good, but the reality is that most of us omit the first word: “constructive.

No one is happy when he receives or when he has to criticize when the relationship with the colleague in question is a good one.

Harry Levinson, a psychoanalyst who became a consultant for a company, gave the following advice on the art of criticism, intrinsically linked to the art of praise

Be direct – Choose a significant event, a thing that illustrates a key issue that needs to be changed, or a pattern of difficulty, such as the inability to do certain things well.

It demoralizes people to just hear that they are wrong at “something“, without knowing exactly what, in order to be able to change the situation. 

Focus on all the precise data, the mentions of the person who did right and wrong. Do not hide behind your finger, do not make indirect or evasive comments, in the end the message will be much too vague.

Levinson points out that: “Being direct is just as important when we praise as when we criticize. I wouldn’t even say that vague praise has no effect, but without a doubt, it is not a large one and you can’t learn much from it.

Offer a solution – Criticism, like any useful feedback, must indicate a way to solve the problem. Otherwise, the recipient remains frustrated, demoralized or unmotivated.

Criticism may open a door to certain possibilities that the person did not realize existed or may simply raise awareness of certain shortcomings that, with little attention, can be addressed – but for that, there must be suggestions. 

Be present –  Criticism, like praise, is more effective when faced face to face. Those who avoid bringing reproach – or praise – want to lighten their burden by communicating remotely, such as in writing.

In this way, however, the communication will be too impersonal and the person concerned lacks the chance to give an answer or clarify things.

Be sensitive –  This refers to empathy. Adjust the impact of what you will say and how you will tell that person.

Managers who do not have enough empathy, Levinson points out, are destined to end up providing feedback in an offensive way, through excessive fine-tuning. 

As a result, this type of criticism is destructive: instead of opening a way to correct the situation, it creates room for strong emotional resentments, for serious upsets, for a defensive attitude and for a distance that is difficult to recover.

Levinson also offers emotional counselling to those who are criticized.

Critical listening should be considered valuable information to make things right, not an attack on the person. 

The urge to react defensively instead of taking responsibility must be avoided.

He also advises people to consider criticism as an opportunity to work with the author of the critique to solve the problem and not to reach a situation of adversity. 

Remember, although critical listening involves trying to evaluate one’s message, it doesn’t mean that we are allowed to speak our mind freely without taking into consideration the other person.

One of the most common reasons why conflicts are generated is because we do not know how to listen to the other.

It is sad to admit it, but when criticism is on the tip of the tongue, the bonds of trust deteriorate. 

Whether it is our partner or a coworker who comes to tell us about some painful or complicated event that they lived through in the day, if we respond wrongly, we are making one of the worst mistakes in building good relationships.

Other types of listening

Besides critical listening, which is our main theme for this article, there are other 13 different types of listening.

Discriminative listening – This is the most rudimentary form of listening that we humans are capable of. Discriminative listening is about the vibrations and sounds of the interlocutor’s voice.

This type of listening is very important because it communicates the message behind the words.

Basically, discriminatory listening helps us to capture emotions from the other person’s voice.

Informational listening – A type of listening to that requires immense concentration. This form of listening is about the ability to receive the information the speaker wants to convey.

Informational listening is about learning what you hear.

Comprehensive Listening – A type of listening that we practice almost daily. For example, when you are attending a lecture or you are having a conversation with your friend, you practice comprehensive listening.

The purpose of this type of listening is to understand best the message of our interlocutor. 

Therapeutic or Empathic Listening – A type of listening to that prioritizes the mental state, emotions and feelings of the speaker.

As an example, you can practice empathic listening when someone gives you advice or asks you for a sensitive issue or topic.

Selective listening – A negative way of listening to someone. This type of listening can often cause conflicts or misunderstandings between people.

Selective listening involves filtering the speaker’s message and selecting from what he or she says, a part that affects you or that interests you most.

Rapport listening  – Oftentimes practised by sellers. Their interest is to make you feel important, understood and valuable. Therefore, people who practice listening will do everything they can to please the interlocutor.

Appreciative listening  – Not about communicating with others, but rather about the relationship with ourselves and what we need to do to nourish the mind.

Therefore, appreciative listening is practised when listening to our favourite music, a recorded meditation or a recited speech.

Pseudo or False listening – We all practised pseudo listening at least once in our lives. We all found ourselves thinking about anything other than what the speaker in front of us was talking about.

Pseudo listening is about pretending to be listening when you actually think of something else.

Deep listening – It means being fully present and ready to listen to the other person. This form of listening involves empathy, understanding, unconditional respect for the other person.

High integrity listening – It implies that you know how to listen with integrity.

Integrity is the kind of virtue that encompasses a series of moral traits of a person, such as honesty, respect for oneself and others. 

Judgmental listening – It is practised by those who, in communicating with others, spend most of their time analyzing and evaluating what the other person is saying.

These people do not shy away from expressing their opinion even if it comes in contention with everything the speaker has said. 

Sympathetic listening – It is somehow resembling empathetic listening.

This type of communication requires special attention to the emotions of the interlocutor.

Sympathetic listening allows you to express your emotions about what you hear. 

Relationship listening – It is about the connection that is formed between people when they communicate.

The stronger this connection is, the easier the two people can understand each other.

Conclusions

In this brief guide, we explained what is critical listening and how to practice the art of criticism. 

Remember, although critical listening involves trying to evaluate one’s message, it doesn’t mean that we are allowed to speak our mind freely without taking into consideration the other person.

One of the most common reasons why conflicts are generated is because we do not know how to listen to the other.

It is sad to admit it, but when criticism is on the tip of the tongue, the bonds of trust deteriorate. 

Critical listening is also known as evaluative listening. We listen, evaluate and criticize the received message so that we can make the appropriate decisions regarding the information we just received. 

An important aspect of critical listening is to differentiate between facts and words charged with emotion or manifestations, typical of intentionality.

It is always important to focus on the goal of the message.

If you have further questions or comments, please let us now!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

FAQ about critical listening

What is critical listening?

Critical listening occurs when the interlocutor tries to convince us by influencing our attitudes, beliefs or ideas.

We listen and evaluate the received message so that we can make the appropriate decisions regarding the received message. 

Why is critical listening important?

Critical listening is important as it allows us to pick the most important parts of the message, in order to make a decision, share our knowledge or evaluate something.

What are the five types of listening?

Five common types of listening are discriminative listening, comprehensive listening, appreciative listening, critical listening and empathetic listening. 

What is the condition that affects critical listening?

One of the conditions that affect critical listening is noise – as it impedes us to concentrate and pay attention to what our interlocutor is saying. 

Is listening profound or comprehensive?

Listening can be both profound and comprehensive.

Profound listening implies being attentive and thoughtful about the speaker’s feelings.

Comprehensive listening requires a high degree of attention in order to understand the other person, also. 

What makes a good listener?

A good listener is attentive to his caller.

Listen with empathy, understanding, an open-minded year and ask important questions.

A good listener knows that not everything is solved, as if by magic, just by having a conversation. Instead, it takes time and openness.

Further reading

Active Listening, by Carl R. Rogers

Active Listening: Improve Your Conversation Skills, Learn Effective Communication Techniques: Achieve Successful Relationships: With 6 Essential Guidelines, by Joseph Sorensen 

The Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction, by Rebecca Z. Shafir MA CCC

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry

What we recommend for Relationship & LGBTQ issues

Relationship counselling

  • If you are having relationship issues or maybe you are in an abusive relationship then relationship counselling could be your first point of call. Relationship counselling could be undertaken by just you, it does not require more than one person.

LGBTQ issues

If you are dealing with LGBTQ issues then LGBTQ counselling may be a great option for you. Maybe you are confused as to your role and identity or simply need someone to speak to. LGBTQ counsellors are specially trained to assist you in this regard.

References

Active Listening, by Carl R. Rogers

Active Listening: Improve Your Conversation Skills, Learn Effective Communication Techniques: Achieve Successful Relationships: With 6 Essential Guidelines, by Joseph Sorensen 

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