8 Levels Of Listening – Complete Guide (2024)

Those who often don’t listen in a conversation; instead, rush to talk and give advice or opinion.

The reason is, we relate the information we hear to our own experiences, without making a deliberate effort to understand the other side.

People who are good communicators are really good listeners.

Here’s your complete guide to 8 levels of listening.

Let’s dive right into it.

Levels Of Listening
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

1. Biased ​

This method lets us hear things that confirm our preconceived biases, opinions, or expectations.

We hear what we want to hear or what we think we should be hearing.

This is all subconscious, without even realizing it. It’s due to a wide variety of factors and often happens in the workplace or personal relationships where stressful emotions could be involved.

Related: How To Spot An Empath

2. Being Sympathetic 

Sympathetic listening is our way of showing our understanding of what a person is saying and how it’s affecting them.

It shows we care about them. This is common among close friends, partners, and family members.

3. Being Empathetic 

This is really similar to sympathetic listening, but takes things to a deeper level.

Rather than looking on as an observer and feeling for the person, be it sadness, anger, or joy, empathic listeners essentially experience the feelings for themselves.

This is a sign of a really close friendship or relationship – to feel someone’s pain or happiness is to love them and care deeply for them.

Related: Empathetic Mindset – Important Traits

4. Critical 

Critical listening involves taking note of the important points.

Essentially, this helps listeners get to the point quickly and keeps things streamlined and efficient.

By using critical listening as a skill, we can make decisions sooner as well as coming up with solutions to problems and analysis of situations much quicker.

‘Critical’ can often have a negative connotation, but in this context, it simply means cutting through what is being said to lift out the most important, relevant parts.

5. Information Gathering

This is similar to critical listening in that we retain the parts that are most important, but it differs in that we’re doing so in order to learn rather than to streamline a process.

Informational gathering is our way of being educated through speech – we listen to the news or attend classes to learn things; to gain new information and insights.

This often involves practical or technical content.

Learning through hearing requires attention in ways that other types of listening don’t – it’s more about concentrating on content than offering advice, watching for physical cues, or having a deeper emotional understanding.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

6. Appreciative 

Sure, we love having deep and meaningful chats, and we’re all for learning something new from the latest nature documentary, yet appreciating hearing something for pleasure is wonderful.

It might be that certain pieces of music really boost your mood, or that your favorite radio hosts are part of your morning routine that sets you up for a good day.

Related: Reasons The Gift Of Empathy Is A Blessing And Not A Curse

7. Being Selective 

This must be something we’ve all been accused of in the past, but it’s not always our fault.

Selective listening essentially means that we only hear what we want to hear and often tune out to other things because we find them irrelevant or boring!

8. Build A Rapport 

Rapport listening is really positive and lovely. It involves quite a few of the styles already mentioned here, but takes things to a different level.

This is what we do when we’re building a relationship.

We really want to engage with what’s being said. To show a keen interest and be ready to respond with something appropriate.

What Are The 7 Levels Of Listening?

Without effective listening, you can’t understand what other people are really trying to say. You could easily get something wrong and make assumptions.

On the other hand, when you actively listen, you can fully communicate with someone else.

So, here are 7 levels of effective listening and why they matter: 

1. Informational 

When you want to learn something, you’ll listen for information to understand.

Some examples include:

  • Work training
  • Self-paced learning at home or at work
  • Soaking in an educational ebook
  • Coaching

Knowing how to listen this way, empowers yourself to become a better learner. By 

actively learning and improving yourself, you can become a more valuable asset in your 

place of work.

Related: 21 Real Problems Empaths Have In Romantic Relationships

2. Discriminative 

You use this before you even know how to understand words. Instead of relying on words, discriminative listening uses tone of voice, verbal cues, and other changes in sound.

This is how babies understand the intention of a phrase. If someone speaks to them in a happy and amused tone of voice, they’ll smile and laugh back.

They can also tell who’s talking because they recognize different voices.

If there’s a conversation happening in a foreign language, you’ll likely automatically use your discriminative listening skills.

3. Biased 

This is used by a person who only listens for information they specifically want to hear.

This can lead to a distortion of facts because the listener isn’t fully in tune with what the speaker wishes to communicate.

Related: Clear Signs You Are A Heyoka Empath – Powerful & Rare

4. Sympathetic 

Instead of focusing on the message spoken through words, the listener focuses on the feelings and emotions of the speaker without getting pulled in deep.

This is done to support processing these feelings.

The speaker will feel heard and validated when you take the time to focus in this way. This is crucial to build a deeper relationship with someone.

5. Empathic 

Empathic listening is useful to help you see from other people’s perspectives.

Here, you understand someone else’s point of view as they’re speaking. You also imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Instead of just focusing on their message, empathic listening helps you relate to someone else’s experiences as if they were your own.

Related: 71+ Empath Quotes To Empower Your Sensitive Side

6. Comprehensive 

This is usually developed in early childhood.

People use comprehensive listening to understand what someone is saying using words.

Informational listening requires comprehensive listening for learning something new. 

7. Critical 

Using critical thinking while tuning in goes deeper than comprehensive listening. Instead of taking the information at face value, you can use critical listening to evaluate what’s being said.

This can be crucial when problem-solving at work. 

What Are The 4 Levels Of Listening?

Given how much our hearing picks up on, you would think we’d be good at it! In fact, most of us are not.

Research suggests that we only remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear.

That means when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers, or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.

For instance these are the levels we listen at:

  1. To obtain information
  2. To understand
  3. For enjoyment
  4. To learn

Related: 21 Reasons Why Intuitive Empaths Have A Gift

What Are The 6 Levels Of Listening?

Listening occurs at different levels, some more demanding than others. Not all interactions require us to listen at the deepest, most demanding levels.

Understanding the six levels of listening can help you become a better listener.

1. Passive

  • Lowest level
  • Listener pays little attention
  • Catches only a few things here and there

2. Responsive

  • Verbal or nonverbal indicators are given
  • A head nod or an occasional “uh-huh,”
  • Not paying full attention
  • Our comprehension level is low

3. Selective

  • Not paying attention to the entire message
  • Merely pay attention to parts that interested us

4. Attentive

  • Listeners provide feedback by asking for more information
  • Paraphrasing the speaker’s message for further clarification
  • Attentive listening engages the intellect
  • Allows better comprehension of more information than other levels

5. Active

  • Active listening requires you to engage your intellect 
  • Engage your emotions
  • Asking the speaker deeper questions
  • Gain complete comprehension
  • Reflect their interpretations of what’s been said back to the speaker
  • The speaker feels heard and has a chance to correct misunderstandings

Related: 25 Empaths Protection Tools – How To Deal With Being An Empath

6. Empathic

  • Empathic listening is the deepest level
  • Step out of your own perspective 
  • View things from the other person’s shoes
  • Listen non judgmentally
  • See from the other person’s perspective 

What Are The Levels Of Listening Skill?

All forms of listening have a place in our lives, yet it’s helpful to know which ones we could develop and build to enhance our lives, and which ones we could choose to stop doing so much of.

1. Biased 

This is when you think you hear your boss say something because you’re expecting them to say it, be it a deadline or praise.

There are plenty of things that influence what we think is being said, for example:

  • Our initial judgement of a person or situation 
  • The way someone looks
  • Their tone of voice
  • Other factors can impact what we think they’re going to say, and we preempt their actual speech with our expectations.

2. Sympathetic 

With this level of listening you’re likely to see head tilts, sighing, and nodding.

3. Empathetic 

Also called empathic listening is giving tailored advice, without making judgments.

Empathetic listening is supporting the other person through their situation.

With empathic listening your therapy walks the individual through whatever they’re experiencing as if you’re experiencing it for yourself.

Here are some helpful tips on Mindful Therapy – The Ultimate Guide.

4. Critical 

Critical also means to scrutinize what’s being said, taking some things with a “pinch of salt”. It requires us to seek the truth amongst the noise of opinion and exaggeration.

An important skill to use with:

  • Business meetings
  • Anything involving finances
  • Anything involving medical procedures
  • High-stress situations

5. Informational 

While you focus on what you can learn by hearing information, taking physical notes and paying attention to body language.

People use this method on:

  • Educational study
  • Working in a business environment
  • Attending meetings
  • New product launches
  • New marketing campaigns

This skill is a great starting point for:

  • A new job
  • A new academic adventure
  • Self-development studies around your interests

6. Appreciative 

This type of listening can be done on your own or sharing with others in a mutual appreciation of your interests.

Such as:

  • Concerts
  • Movies
  • Podcasts
  • E-books

Find out Why Is Music Important To Us – Reasons Backed By Science here.

7. Selective 

Out of all the types of listening, selective listening is probably the only one that can have negative connotations.

It suggests trouble with:

  • Communicating
  • Empathizing
  • Paying attention

8. Rapport 

Our response is tailored to whoever is speaking and matches the tone of the conversation.

Used daily in:

  • The workplace
  • Client lunches
  • Meeting new people on a night out 
  • Social events

5 Levels Of Listening Stephen Covey

Well-known author and business leader, Stephen R. Covey pointed out that there is more to it than either listening or not.

According to Stephen Covey there are five listening levels:

1. Ignoring

The lowest form of listening is ignoring – not listening at all. If you’re distracted by anything while talking to someone, they’ll have the impression you’re ignoring them. 

For example, if someone’s speaking and you start a conversation or interject a comment  with some other person – you’re ignoring your user.

2. Pretend Listening

Pretend listening gives the impression you’re being heard. They may hear you talking, but they are not “present.”  

They may nod their head or offer another gesture to indicate they’re listening, but they aren’t giving you their full attention.

3. Selective Listening

The person who listens selectively only wants part of the message. They could be the person who says, “So, what’s your point?”

They’re quick to interrupt the person speaking or they have the tendency to finish the other person’s sentences.

4. Attentive Listening

Attentive or active listeners offer you time and attention.

However they’re one step short of being an empathic listener because active listening only comes from their own frame of reference, without putting themselves in your shoes.

5. Empathic Listening

Empathic listening is intentional. It’s the highest form of listening. 

The person who develops this skill listens not only to what the other person’s saying, they listen also, for what the other person means.

They are willing to give their time AND full attention to truly hear the other person with their ears and their heart.

Good Listeners
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Related: Super Empath Vs Narcissist & What We Can Learn From Both

Levels Of Listening Coaching

A good coach must be familiar with the three levels of listening and how each level differs from the other to become a better listener.

Here is what each level entails.

  • Level 1: Internal Listening
  • Focuses on your own inner voice
  • Only considering your own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and conclusions.

All three levels may be used by the client in a coaching session, however, if a coach’s only level of listening is at Level 1, this will negatively impact the coach/client relationship and the results.

  • Level 2: Focused Listening

Focused listening is the ability to keep intense focus on the client.

This involves:

  • Taking in what they’re saying
  • Paying attention to their expressions, emotions, values, and what the client isn’t saying

This helps the coach determine what impact their responses are having on the client.

  • Level 3: Whole Body Listening

With this level of listening, you also learn to focus on:

  • Your client’s language patterns to hear and feel what really motivates them (NLP has many powerful techniques for this)
  • Observe their body language 
  • Observe their energy level
  • Use your intuition

Whole body listening incorporates these 21 Insights In Clarity Coaching.

Levels Of Listening In Communication Skills

​Wisely pointed out by mentor Tom Shimizu, the word ‘listen’ contains the exact same letters as the word ‘silent.’ 

He also said, “We came into this world with two ears, two eyes and one mouth – keep the ratio in mind.”

Expect to require these skills to listen and communicate better:

  • Stop talking
  • Prepare yourself to listen
  • Put the speaker at ease
  • Remove distractions
  • Empathise
  • Be patient
  • Avoid personal prejudice
  • Listen to tone changes
  • Get a feel for the scenario, not just words
  • Watch for non-verbal communication

Good listeners are empathetic, compassionate, and caring. These skills go a long way in building connections with others.

Related: 12 Types Of Empaths And How To Identify Yours

What Are The 8 Levels Of Listening?

The eight levels of listening gives you important information to be aware of where your focus is in conversations. You will also understand how you connect with most people and what their intent may be.

The listener’s role is not one of marking time while deciding what he or she wants to say next. 

Here are 8 strategies that support the 8 levels of listening:

  1. Make appropriate eye contact
  2. Attend fully to your partner
  3. Paraphrase in order to clarify something
  4. Be careful not to monopolize the conversation
  5. Use positive and supportive body mirroring
  6. Avoid distractions that might derail the conversation
  7. Invite in and be comfortable with silence
  8. Thank your partner for sharing when you’re finished

Although there are different concepts out there for different levels of listening, there is a common thread. The more skillful we are at being present when listening in our conversations with other people, the better our interactions can be.

Imagine your sense of the world if people were truly present with each other.

By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate.

What’s more, imagine all the conflicts and misunderstandings you’ll avoid.

Has this blog post helped you find your level of listening? ​​✅  If it was valuable, I invite you to forward it to others you know.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.