The ability to be an excellent listener is rare these days and is a powerful skill, if learned. Since most people never actually listen, being an active listener can give you a big step up in this world. The power of a good listener can not be understated. It makes people like you, respect you, and feel comfortable around you. It allows you to grow and learn new ideas quickly and effectively and it also helps you convey your ideas better. It builds trust, strengthens relationships, and allows for a stronger connection between you and everybody you meet.

What’s more, as you become better at listening, you also become more interested in other people. As you become more interested in people, you will naturally listen better and people will naturally become more interested in you. As Dale Carnegie once said in his book How to Win Friends & Influence People, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

In this article we are going to discuss the 7 different types of listeners that are described in the book Listen!. The first 6 types are negative, with many flaws, while the 7th type is the ideal listener. We will explain exactly how each type listens, the negatives of each type, and discuss how each type can improve their listening skills. Let’s get this started!

1.The Preoccupied

How they “Listen”

A preoccupied listener is pretty self explanatory: it is someone who always seems preoccupied. This is the type of person that never gives their complete attention to whoever is speaking to them. Whether they are on their phone, fiddling their thumbs, or reading emails, you know that this person is not giving you their complete, undivided attention.

Why it’s Bad

If somebody is a preoccupied listener, the person they are listening to will never feel satisfied. The speaker will feel as if this person has better things to do and is not interested in what they have to say. A preoccupied listener makes whomever is speaking to them feel that they are secondary and not as important as whatever is preoccupying them. If you are a preoccupied listener, often people will be frustrated with you and talk to you as little as possible.

How to Improve

If you are a preoccupied listener, there are several ways in which you can improve your listening ability. First and foremost is to put away any distractions when somebody is talking to you. If you are always looking at your phone, put it in your pocket. If you are always on your computer, lock your computer screen. Additionally, whenever you feel that you are getting distracted by something, simply focus on your breathing for a second or two then get right back to listening to the person who is talking to you.

2.The “Out-to-Lunchers”

 

How they “Listen”

An out-to-lunch listener is very similar to a preoccupied listener. An out-to-lunch listener is somebody who is physically there but mentally not. They’re somebody who might be daydreaming or completely zoned out when somebody is talking to them.

Why it’s Bad

If you are an out-to-lunch listener, then you are not really listening at all. People can tell if you are zoned out while they are talking, and they will feel like what they are saying either bores you or that you just don’t care. You also will never gain valuable knowledge or interest in other people if you are always zoned out and never really listen to anything other people say.

How to Improve

If you are an out-to-luncher, methods to improve your listening ability are very similar to that of a preoccupied listener. When you realize you are zoning out, focus on your breathing for a second or two and get back to listening to what the person is saying. This centers you and brings you back to concentrating on the person speaking. Additionally, if you maintain eye contact and lean towards the person, you will find it easier to stay focused and not daze off.

3.The Interrupters

 

How they “Listen”

An interrupter is only listening on the surface but is not really comprehending what people are saying. An interrupter listens to the words people are saying but is not listening for understanding. Rather, they are listening simply to find a point at which they can jump back into the conversation. They do not care about what they other person has to say, they just want to find a way back into the conversation so they can talk again. People who are interrupters usually annoy people, are looked at as self-centered and are often avoided.

Why it’s Bad

Being an interrupter is bad for many reasons, the first being that people usually find it annoying and will often try to avoid any conversation with an interrupter. It is also bad because you are not actually learning anything from your conversations; you are, in essence, talking to yourself. 

How to Improve

If you find that you are an interrupter, there are a few easy things you can do to improve your listening skills. First is to decide you will not talk until the other person is done speaking. To get into the habit of not interrupting, try apologizing every time that you do interrupt; that will help you become aware of just how often you are interrupting. Once you stop interrupting, you can now actually listen to what the other person is saying. Additionally, you are no longer thinking about what and when to speak next so you can spend all of your energy listening to the other person.

 

4.The Whatevers

How they “Listen”

A whatever listener pretty much isn’t listening at all, and they have the body language and demeanor of somebody who has no interest in what the speaker is saying. They are completely uninterested in the entire conversation.

Why it’s Bad

Its pretty obvious why being a whatever listener is bad. If you are a whatever listener, often people will never feel that you have any interest in what they say and people will stop talking to you altogether. Additionally, being a whatever listener makes you less likely to learn or get any value out of other people.

How to Improve

If you are a whatever listener, and you want to improve, try changing your body language and posture. By sitting up straight, leaning towards the person who is talking and keeping eye contact, not only do you give off the impression that you are listening better, but this also makes you actually start listening better. Another very useful tip is to concentrate on the message the speaker is trying to convey. By focusing on the message, you force yourself to, at the very least, pay attention to what the person is trying to say, making it much more likely you might actually find it interesting or valuable.

5. The Combatives

 

How they “Listen”

A combative listener is somebody who is hostile towards the speaker and is only listening for information they can use against them. They are listening, but not for learning or understanding; they are listening for ammunition. Once they hear something they can use against the speaker, they will stop listening and focus on exactly how to use it against them, sometimes even interrupting the speaker to say it.

Why it’s Bad

Being a combative listener is bad because it not only gives the perception of being mean and aggressive, but also destroys useful debate. If you are a combative listener, you are not listening to understand and do not come to a useful resolution; rather, you are listening solely to attack and make another person look bad. This reputation will spread and people will know to watch what they say around you. This will severely limit your exposure to new, great ideas.  

How to Improve

As a combative listener, it is helpful to improve your listening ability by convincing yourself that everybody has something valuable to add. In your mind, this will put people on an equal footing with you and make you less likely to be on the offense. Secondly, put yourself in the speaker’s shoes; imagining how you would feel if roles were reversed can help you understand why people would not like it and remind you why you should stop doing what you are doing. Thirdly, understanding that most people are not trying to attack you or get into an argument will help reduce your tendency to be on the offensive. Once you understand that most people are not on the offensive and do not want an argument, that can help you relax and be less aggressive with people as they speak.

6. The Analysts

How they “Listen”

An analyst is somebody who actually listens pretty well but has a tendency to offer unsolicited advice. This is somebody who will listen to what the speaker has to say and then go off about how they think the speaker should fix it and give the speaker a ton of advice.

Why it’s Bad

This is bad because sometimes their analysis and advice limits what the person speaking really wanted to say. This leaves the speaker feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied. Being an analyst also puts you into a therapist-like role, which is often not what people are looking for, and it also reduces the person’s ability to speak freely. When people think everything they say will be analysed, they are going to be more cautious of what they say and less likely to open up.

How to Improve

Understand that it is not your job to give people advice or solutions to their problems. Realize that most people just want somebody to bounce their problems off of but are not looking for you to solve their problems. Most people who are analyst listeners are actually good at listening, so continue listening the way you are; the main change should be to what you say once the speaker is done.

7. The Engagers

How they Listen

Engagers are present and focused. They give 100% of their attention to whoever is speaking and they actively try to empathize with the speaker. They show interest, empathy and warmth to everybody who speaks with them.

Why it’s Good

Being an engager is good because it is the optimal way to listen to somebody talk. An engager makes the person speaking feel listened to and understood and encourages the speaker to continue speaking. People always want to talk to engagers because they feel truly understood and truly able to express themselves. If you can emulate the characteristics of an engager, then you will become a much greater conversationalist.

Those are the 7 types of listeners, figure out which style of listening you express most and use the tips provided to help improve your listening ability. Being a great communicator is an important part of being a leader and an important part of personal development. Expressing your ideas is only half of effective communication; the other half is effective listening. Work on your listening skills and you will instantly increase your communication skills and leadership ability.

This article was heavily inspired by the book Listen! It is a short book packed with useful information about all aspects of listening and communication. If you found this article interesting and want to learn more, I recommend checking it out!
Have any questions or comments? Meet me in the comment section to discuss further; and remember to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and sign up for our newsletter to be notified whenever a new article is published.


 

 

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