Listening Skills: An Overview of the 2 Types

There are two types of listening skills, one being active listening and the other being passive listening. An active listener is truly invested in the conversation at hand and actively taking in all aspects to the convo while even providing their own input as well. A passive listener is the type of person who we usually say listen to someone speak but it, “goes in one ear and out the other.” They maybe be looking at you, but they aren’t articulating or absorbing the words you are speaking. It is more effective to be an active listener when it comes to every scenario in life, but what happens when that practice becomes way too difficult for someone to do?

Listening sounds like such a simple skill first glance, but according to Organizational Anthropologist Judith E. Glaser, “many of us fall into listening habit patterns that stop us from engaging deeply with others”. This statement accurately depicts how a passive listener may conduct conversations, and how staying focused for more than a few seconds can be quite difficult for some. Typically, younger children naturally have a very passive listening skill pattern, just due to age. But as we grow, being correctly taught how to listen and be engaged in conversations, is an extremely important characteristic to have in life, especially in the business world. High professionalism does include incredible active listening skills.

Listening Skills


Listening is a wonderful skill, but many people confuse active listening from passive listener.  The passive listener hears what the person has to say, and can even parrot back the other person’s words, but passive listeners lack full comprehension and understanding of what the speaker is trying to convey. The active listener is assertively engaged in the listening process.  This means the listener is not simply hearing what is said but is trying to genuinely understand the person and not just the content. Active listeners ask questions, validate the speaker, and try to decipher what emotions the speaker is experiencing.  As a result, the person that speaks feels that they have been understood, and not just heard. This leads to improvement in relationships, communication, and empathy.  

Top tip to be a good listener:  My top tip to be a good listener: ask thoughtful questions during a conversation.  Try to really understand what is being talked about, encourage yourself to be curious about the topic, then ask questions to solidify your understanding.  The best relationships I have had with clients and colleagues have occurred because I have asked thoughtful questions about their interests and activities. Asking questions shows other that you really care about them and what they are talking about.

Whether you feel like your listening skills are up to par or not, it’s important to always acknowledge your own listening skills frequently. We are only human so of course, we’ll have those days where the mental fatigue is real, so active listening can be quite difficult to perform. But as long as you are aware of this skill and the importance of it, you will have more effective conversations regardless of the topic.

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