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4 listening styles communicators need to know

There are different types of listening - appreciative, empathic, critical, and comprehensive listening. Likewise, there are different styles of listening that people can use. As a master communicator, you must understand the different listening styles to enhance communication and minimize your audience's potential for misunderstanding.
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Why is understanding listening styles important?

A listening style is simply a set of beliefs or attitudes about listening. There are four main styles of listening:
  • People-oriented;
  • Content-oriented;
  • Action-oriented; and
  • Time-oriented listening.

The way someone listens affects how they process information. Depending on the context of the situation, listeners can even adjust and switch between the different listening styles.

Audiences today are varied and diverse, and as a communicator, you will likely have an audience with vastly different backgrounds - ethnic, religious, professional, etc. Without the understanding of varying listening styles, there is a huge potential for misunderstanding.

That’s why understanding listening styles is essential to being an effective communicator.

Listening styles explained

Below are the four different listening styles that people use when listening. As a master communicator, you may find that you have a dominant type that you use most often. But, as previously mentioned, it's possible to adjust between styles so you can orient to different situations.
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1. People-oriented listeners

People-oriented listeners can tune into and show a strong concern for other people's feelings, emotions, and moods.

When listening to someone communicating with them, these listeners can relate more to the relationship-building aspects of the communication.

People-oriented listeners tend to look for common interests with the person they are communicating.

Example of a people-oriented listener: When someone is going on various interviews, one of the best ways to have a successful job search is to build rapport with their interviewee. That said, anytime someone goes on an interview their likely being a people-oriented listener.

To effectively connect with this type of listener: Share life stories (your own and other people's) as a means of communicating and understanding. Be empathetic and appeal to emotion in your arguments.

2. Content-oriented listeners

Content-oriented listeners are those who are more interested in what others are saying rather than who's saying it. They favor information that is technical, complex, and challenging, for example, how to make a website or how to start a blog.

They typically listen to the information being presented in its entirety before they form any sort of judgment.

This can be crucial for brands as they need to cater to the individuals that have questions and having a platform like this one to support your content efforts is crucial as it does things through automation and human beings can interject into the process.

Example of a content-oriented listener: Someone who enjoys listening to presidential debates that encourage them to consider their political views.

How you can effectively connect with this type of listener: Dive deep into the explanations of the points in your presentation to provide the most value to this listener. For example, if you are talking about how sleep affects professional productivity, you can share personal experience based tips rather than general tips.

3. Action-oriented listeners

Action-oriented listeners are those that value clear, well-organized, and error-free messages. They like lists and tend to get frustrated when information is presented to them in a way that isn't straightforward and easy to follow.

These types of people are the ones most likely to notice inconsistencies and errors in a presentation.

Example of an action-oriented listener: An individual interested in building an online course but has no idea how to go through the process and needs a full guide to walk them through the process.

How you can effectively connect with this type of listener: Break up your presentation into clearly defined and easily digestible sections, or a step-by-step process that takes the listener from the starting point to the ultimate goal in a simple, easy-to-follow way.

In addition, make sure you use a tool that allows you your best chance of creating an easy-to-follow and clear presentation. A great tool for this is Movavi, but there are other options available as well.

4. Time-oriented listener

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Time oriented listeners are those people who are incredibly efficient with the use of their time. When they communicate with someone, they are not concerned with details, but instead, prefer the people they’re communicating with to get to the point quickly.

Example of a time-oriented listener: A doctor in an emergency room is an excellent example of a time-oriented listener. They simply want patients to get to the point so they can make a diagnosis quickly and move on to the next patient.

How you can effectively connect with this type of listener: To effectively connect with time-oriented listeners, your presentation must be value-packed and concise. Avoid slow delivery and lengthy explanations, and get to the point as quickly as possible.

Key takeaways

A listening style is a set of beliefs or attitudes about listening.

People-oriented listeners tune into other people's feelings, emotions, and moods.

Content-oriented listeners focus more on the meaning and credibility of the message being communicated.

Action-oriented listeners focus on the physical actions that are required.

Time-oriented listeners want short, concise messages that get to the point quickly.

About Ron Stefanski

Ron Stefanski is an internet entrepreneur and marketing professor at National Louis University who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business. You can learn more from him by visiting You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin.

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