The types of listening (7+)

How many types of listening are there and how you can become a better listener?

In this blog post, we will talk about the types of listening, and how one can become a better listener by practising active listening.

The types of listening

For good communication, listening is very important.

No matter how well you manage to express your thoughts and express your feelings, if you fail to listen to the interlocutor properly, communication will become deficient.

Listening is, in communication, as important as speaking.

Most of us tend to talk more than we listen because talking gives us the false impression that we are in control.

Here are the types of listening:

Aggressive listening – the listener listens selectively to the interlocutor, in order to judge or attack him. He may also retain certain details in order to use them in his favour later.

The desire of this type of interlocutor is to dominate or hurt, he is not interested in what he really wants to communicate with the other. 

Aggressive listening is generally practised by people who hold positions that give them authority, by people who are upset, angry, fearful or who have resentments.

This type of listening makes the interlocutor unhappy, intimidated or frustrated.

Defensive listening – defensive listening is also a type of selective listening, in which the person feels attacked by the interlocutor they are listening to.

She interprets any remark, be it very innocent and well-intentioned, as an attack on the person.

Thus, the listener feels offended or injured and assumes the role of victim.

Passive listening – passive listening is a type of mechanical listening, practised by someone who has no reaction, whether or not he agrees with his interlocutor.

This obedience betrays disinterest and indifference. Social situations are those in which this type of listening is often practised.

Active listening – active listening is also called effective listening. This involves hiring an interlocutor, which facilitates communication.

Active listeners give all their interest to support their interlocutor, getting involved emotionally, not just verbally.

Their purpose is not to dominate or defend, but to learn and understand.

How to become a better listener

Improve your attitude – analyze yourself, observe the attitude you have when you listen to the interlocutor and do everything possible to improve your skills.

Calm your mind – a calm mind allows the listener to pay more attention to the interlocutor’s words. It is difficult to be a good listener when your mind is distracted by the thoughts you have.

Give up prejudices – when you are in the position of the interlocutor, it is advisable to give up prejudices. These affect your ability to be a good listener.

Listen with empathy – listening with empathy, you will feel the emotion of the interlocutor, and the communication will be better. Empathy connects people both mentally and emotionally.

Practice active listening – to improve communication, it is recommended to try to practice active listening as much as possible.

In this regard, follow the following recommendations:

  • Be present during the discussion, maintain eye contact and pay attention to the facial expressions of the interlocutor
  • Try to be as friendly as possible
  • Don’t focus on what you’re going to say, but rather on what the person you’re talking to is saying
  • Do not interrupt your interlocutor
  • Ask questions to find out details
  • Pay attention to the body language of the interlocutor
  • Do not act as if you know what the interlocutor is going to say, do not anticipate his words and do not continue his sentences.

Active listening

Active listening is an ability that involves both listening to the speaker and providing feedback to his words, in order to communicate that we hear and understand what he is telling us.

Active listening is a necessary skill for building relationships based on understanding, respect and trust, as well as for activities such as learning, negotiating conflicts or communicating in a professional and personal context.

Active listening is an intense effort of the individual to hear, analyze and understand what the other communicates, is a necessary skill for all professional categories that involve interaction with people (teachers, counsellors, social workers, etc.). 

Active listening is also very useful in situations of negotiation and mutual support, and is considered an important skill for the functioning of couple and family relationships. 

Contrary to popular belief, active listening does not involve simply hearing what the other person is saying.

Instead, it involves the concomitant use of nonverbal language (gestures, body posture, gaze), and elements of verbal communication (asking clarifying questions, using verbal encouragement), which help us to pay attention to what the other person is communicating. 

Active listening is a real effort to understand what the other person is communicating to us, without having preconceptions about what he is thinking (what we think he will say or what we expect him to tell us). 

The rules of active listening

Active listening is based on four basic rules:

Try to understand the other before trying to make yourself understood. Trying to make yourself understood involves presenting your own opinions or opinions to the other while trying to understand the other involves an intense effort of listening and understanding.

In order to communicate effectively and to make ourselves understood, it is advisable to first try to understand the other’s point of view. 

Listening involves an effort to gather information and knowledge, and effective communication involves using this information and knowledge to communicate to the other that we have understood, but also to make ourselves understood.

Adopt a non-evaluative attitude. Active listening, sometimes called empathic listening, requires a high degree of emotional intelligence.

When someone shares something important for him/her, it is advisable to refrain from revealing our opinions and judgments before that person shares his / her own opinions about the matter.

Pay full and undistorted attention to the other. When we use active listening, it is advisable to pay attention to what the other person is communicating to us and to try not to be distracted by aspects related to the previous speech of the interlocutor or to aspects external to the conversation. 

At the same time, active listening involves the use of elements of verbal communication (eg minimal encouragement) and nonverbal communication (eye contact, smile, etc.) to show the other that we are attentive to what we are communicating.

Use silence effectively. Using silence in a conversation can be used both to encourage the other person to continue the conversation and to give them enough time to formulate the answer. 

It is advisable not to interrupt our interlocutor when he is speaking. To stimulate the conversation we can use statements of encouragement or minimal encouragement (for example “Oh …”, “I understand …”). 

Basic components of active listening

Active listening is characterized by:

  • understanding – the listener makes an effort to actively listen and analyze what the other person is communicating to him without being distracted or without thinking about anything else;
  • retention of information – involves an effort to memorize the message sent by the other. Some people may opt for memorization strategies such as taking notes or memorizing the main ideas of another’s speech.
  • giving the answer – the answer is a way to provide the other with verbal and nonverbal feedback on the message sent by him. We will give the answers to communicate to the other that we have heard, analyzed and understood what he wanted to communicate to us.

Active listening techniques

Below are a number of techniques that can make it easier to listen to each other’s message.

It is not necessary to use them all at once to be good listeners.

Even the use of at least 3 techniques can improve our ability to listen and understand.

Reaffirmation – is a useful technique by which we repeat the message sent by the other in the way we understood. Additional wording is also useful (“So, to understand …”). 

It is advisable to reformulate the message and not to repeat it word for word.

Summary – is a technique by which we synthesize what the other communicated to us in a shorter sentence and which combines the main ideas of his speech. 

In addition to providing the summary, it is advisable to ask clarification questions, such as “Am I right?”, “Is that so?” (“Overall, it seems to me that …. Is that so?”).

Minimal encouragement – consists of sounds, words or phrases that have the role of stimulating the conversation. Their optimal use assures the other that we are with him and that we understand him.

Examples of minimal encouragement: “Aha.”, “Yes?”, “I understand.”, “Continue”, “And then?”.

Reflection – unlike repetition, reflection involves an attempt to discuss both the message conveyed and its emotional aspects (“I think this is very important to you”).

Providing feedback – means providing an answer to another’s speech such as: providing relevant information, personal observations, insights or sharing experiences.

It is advisable to pay attention to the interlocutor’s reaction after providing feedback.

Identifying emotions – by identifying emotions we can help the other to reflect on his emotional states. 

We can identify emotions by making statements about how the person feels while conveying a message.

Given that we cannot know how the other person feels, the phrases to identify emotions should be formulated in the first person, in a subjective way (“I think you feel sad”, “I notice that you feel frustrated when you talk about it”).

Careful Analysis Questions – Through these questions, we challenge the other person to carefully analyze his or her problem and provide us with more relevant and detailed information (“What do you think will happen if you do this?” “What thoughts came to mind? while arguing with him/her”?

Validation statements – these are useful to confirm to the other the authenticity and uniqueness of personal problems, difficulties or emotions.

Validation is based on both empathic listening and encouragement (“I appreciate you wanting to talk to me about these issues,” “I respect you for the courage to share these difficulties with me”).

Effective pause – using the pause between the interlocutor’s speech and our response helps us, as listeners, to formulate effective feedback.

Silence – Used effectively, silence has two advantages: first, it gives the other person the opportunity to think and formulate their answer.

At the same time, it is useful in defusing an unproductive or difficult conversation.

“I” messages – the use of I messages ensures that we focus on the problem and not on the person.

Messages I involve the transmission to others of information about their own thoughts, beliefs, feelings or motives in a personal way, without accusing or criticizing (“I know you have a lot to say, but I need to …”).

Redirection – can be used to change the meaning and themes of the conversation when the topic discussed causes negative reactions to the other (anger, fear, sadness).

Consequence analysis – is closely related to feedback and involves the analysis of the consequences of actions, respectively the lack of initiative or action of the other.

The analysis of the consequences is always based on the message sent by the interlocutor and must be formulated in the form of a question (“What happened the last time you stopped taking the medication prescribed by your doctor?”). 

In addition to these verbal techniques, some experts recommend that in active listening we use certain non-verbal indicators such as using a smile, using the right eye contact (if it is too intense then we scare the interlocutor, and if he is absent then sends the message that we are not interested in it), slightly bending forward or approving through the movement of the head. 

These indicators tend to strengthen the interlocutor’s sense of security and trust in us. 

Barriers to active listening

Last but not least, in addition to the use of active listening techniques, it is advisable to take into account the existence of certain barriers that may endanger active listening and, implicitly, communication. These are:

  • justifying questions (“Why did you do that?”) – such questions provoke defensive reactions;
  • offering immediate support (“Stay calm! Don’t be afraid!”);
  • offering advice (“I think it would be best to break up with him);
  • forcing the other to talk about a topic he or she does not want to address (“Come on, tell me more! What happened next? Come on, I’m not going to say anything.”);
  • offering sympathy in a way that is too protective (“Oh, poor you. I know exactly how you feel.”);
  • moralizing or using the word “should” (“You should have done this”);
  • interruptions – they usually tell the other person that we are not interested in what he is saying.

They can jeopardize listening and communication, respectively, as they send messages that indicate a lack of interest in the message, the existence of preconceptions about the other’s situation or erroneous attitudes and beliefs about his ability to solve problems 

(attitudes of type “I have more experience than you in solving these problems”). 

Therefore, it is recommended to limit or even avoid the use of these phrases that may block listening and communication with the other.


In this blog post, we talked about the types of listening, and how one can become a better listener by practising active listening.

Listening is, in communication, as important as speaking. Most of us tend to talk more than we listen because talking gives us the false impression that we are in control.

Some of the types of listening that we talked about in this article are aggressive listening, defensive, passive and active listening.

Active listening is a necessary skill for building relationships based on understanding, respect and trust, as well as for activities such as learning, negotiating conflicts or communicating in a professional and personal context.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

FAQ about the types of listening

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.

What makes a bad listener?

A bad listener is a person who often interrupts you, does not really hear what you say and does not make an effort to understand your message.

A bad listener will try to force his or her own opinion or an “ideal solution” on you and will quickly change the subject.

What is the importance of listening?

Good listening is extremely important in any relationship.

By practising active listening you are showing to the other person that you care, that you value their opinion and time.

Knowing how to practice good listening is a quality that not many people possess.

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


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