Leaders and Managers Should Master These 4 Types of Listening

The ability to listen is one of the most important skills you can leverage as a leader and manager. Not only does this ensure that your employees are heard, but it broadens your perspective too. There are four types of listening that you should master.

Types of listening leaders and managers should master

Back to listening

In the previous articles of this series, we’ve already discussed about the importance of listening and provided some tips and tricks on how to make the process more effective.

Listening provides you with access to a diversity of ideas and potential solutions you could not have generated on your own. Listening expands perspectives and enables an organization to proactively address potential issues rather than simply react to them after they escalate,” notes the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

However, if you overlook the need to listen, you risk creating friction within your company culture and internal brand. This should be defined by how you motivate, inspire and relate to the employees. ATD continues: “When an organization’s internal brand deteriorates, valued contributors leave. High turnover results in a loss of knowledge, expertise and innovation.

Create a workplace where people feel heard. And you’ll become the best manager you can be, by using these four types of listening.

Active listening

The purpose of active listening is to fully absorb what the other person is communicating. As such, active listening requires that you:

  • tune into the verbal and nonverbal cues
  • reflect on what you’re hearing
  • ask clarifying questions
  • concentrate on both the individual and the subtext.

More importantly, remember to: “[Listen] without judgment or formulating a response before they’re halfway through speaking. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language, as well as their words. This can be the toughest step to master because most people are used to listening to the noise in their heads,” explains Holly Green, CEO of the Human Factor, Inc.

When you practice active listening, you not only hear what’s being said, but you make the other person feel heard. Which is a critical skill for managers.

Informational listening

The purpose of informational listening is to learn about a certain topic or be coached on a specific function. This requires that you assume a teachable posture and prepare to learn from others on your team. “It is considered a passive form of listening because the listener is not judging, critiquing or evaluating the message. They are just listening to understand,” according to Study.com.

As a leader, you need to take instruction, like during a quarterly feedback session. This is also one of the most valuable types of listening. Use it when a coworker is updating you on their project data, showing you how to solve a technical issue, or describing their latest brainstorm. It’s crucial to listen with the objective of acquiring new insights.

Critical listening

The purpose of critical listening is to analyze communication through a filter of unbiased, rational and open-minded scrutiny. This requires that you detach from preconceived notions or stereotyped influences that might cloud your stance and measure the validity of a case being presented from both sides. As a manager, this is one of the non-negotiable types of listening.

In order to be an efficient critical listener, Boundless Resources suggests that you need to: “Organize the information that [you] hear, understand its context or relevance, recognize unstated assumptions, make logical connections between ideas, determine truth values and draw conclusions.

Critical listening helps you become a more competent decision maker and problem solver. You’ll be able to consider the pros and cons of a proposal or argument equally. This is especially valuable for new managers who have been recently promoted. With current relationships on the team, it’s harder to step back and be unbiased.

Empathetic listening

The purpose of empathetic listening is to understand the emotions behind the words a speaker is articulating. This requires that you show compassion for the individual’s unique framework and viewpoint, whether or not you agree with it.

This form of listening creates space for the people on your team to think, feel and express themselves differently than how you do. What’s more, it enables you to converse with them in a more relational way.

Whereas other types of listening are used to connect cognitively, empathetic listening aims to connect emotionally, suggests Valdosta State University’s Educational Psychology Interactive platform.

To listen empathetically, you need to do just one thing: “Get rid of any phrases from your lexicon that begin with I. This includes “I find,” “I do,” “I like to” and “I always.” Each of those phrases takes the focus away from the speaker and puts it onto us,” says Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ.

In the workplace, it’s useful to tune into how employees feel about situations or processes because it makes you a trusted leader.

Master listening as a true leader

Communication is critical to your success as a leader and manager. Your ability to listen attentively, make employees feel heard, and take feedback and insights, all these benefit you and your team.

Use these four types of listening and these recommendations to become a better listener, opening everyone up to improve and connect.

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