The Art of Listening


Listening is a key skill in any business, not least in the contact centre industry. But, why, when we are all so aware of how important communication is, do we still hear so many complaints of people being bad listeners in the workplace?  Well, the truth is that there is actually no such thing as a bad listener. There are just different kinds of listeners. In fact – there are four different kinds; intuitive, directive, evaluative and facilitative. To understand what type of listeners our employees are, we developed a Listening Psychometric Test in conjunction with Centell Limited. It means we can match clients, teams and employees in a way that suits their communication traits. Because with each trait comes an individual behaviour pattern. It’s the reason that some people will listen to a highfalutin rhetoric and feel inspired and energized. It’s the reason that others will switch off the moment they realise they aren’t actually being tasked with specific actions. And it has huge implications for how we communicate in business.

An intuitive listener is someone who is very focused on innovatively achieving their goals and will quickly filter out information they consider to be irrelevant. However they can become easily distracted when pursuing too many “interesting ideas” and as a result fail to deliver on the things that are important to them and their colleagues. When looking at developing their career progression, intuitive listeners need to assess how they interact with others, and it may be a case of slowing down to tune into the needs and agenda of the colleagues they are interacting with. In business, many entrepreneurs are intuitive listeners – they’re excited by the big picture, but lose interest with the finer details.

Directive listeners tend to have a very clear picture of what they want to achieve and therefore they tend to listen for input that adds to their practical skill base in ways that enable then to quickly get things done.  Although directive listeners can be depended on to make things happen and to quickly solve the issues they deal with, they also need to better understand the needs of those they are interacting with. Some of my managers are great do-ers and masters at weeding out the really key actions from a long meeting – the next step is ensuring that they can involve and inspire a team to deliver on those objectives.

The evaluative listener is the most demanding of a speaker in terms of wanting complete accuracy of the information being shared. However, when evaluative listeners encounter situations in which they are uncertain about the information or appear pressured to make quick decisions, they can be less positive and display intolerance of speakers whom they judge to be poorly informed. These listeners want all of the info – and leave no stone unturned.

Lastly, the facilitative listener is the most effective in being able to relate to speakers in a manner that encourages the conversation to flow. They are usually very good at the relationship building process; however, they may be too easily deflected from achieving their other agenda items.

Listening just might be the most undervalued skill there is in business but let’s not be too quick to label someone as a bad listener, we need to take the time to understand what type of listener they are.  It will improve communication in the workplace no end.


Neville Upton

Neville Upton is CEO of The Listening Company

Published On: 22nd Oct 2008 - Last modified: 2nd Nov 2017
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy,


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