Basic Listening Skills Types, Barriers, and Tips to Improve

Basic Listening Skills

Listening is a complex and selective process of receiving, focussing, accepting, and storing. It is an activity of great importance as it demands high-level class seriousness.  Listening is the ability to receive and interpret messages in the communication process.

Listening is a key to all effective communication. Without this ability, messages are easily misunderstood. It shows a person’s attitude towards other people. Kevin Murphy said, The better you listen, the luckier you will get.

If you want to be a good listener, you must follow the four distinct components of listening Hear, comprehend, Retain, and Recall. Let’s see the difference between Hearing and Listening.

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Hearing is a part of listening. Hearing is merely the ability of the ear to realize sounds but listening is more of a conscious effort to understand the sounds, requiring concentration of mind. It is a mental activity that involves important four distinct components listening to Hear, Comprehend, Retain, and Recall.

What is Effective Listening?

Effective listening is actively absorbing the information, and providing feedback to the speaker so that he or she knows the message was received. Effective listeners show speakers that their message is received and understood.

In order to listen effectively, one must focus and make an effort. Effective listening is listening with the intent to understand rather than just hearing what was said. The ability to listen well is a skill. As a result, being better and more proficient at it demands practice.

What are the Stages of Listening?

There are six stages of listening


Hearing Something

Sound waves make their way to your ears: you hear something. This could be the barking of a dog, a car’s alarm system or someone’s words.


Pay Attention

You give attention to the sounds you want to hear. For instance, you may ignore the barking dog at the distance and you screen it out entirely. The other story may be the story of the sound of the car alarm. If you hear the sound of your car, you pay attention to it! Paying attention becomes difficult when there is noise that makes it harder to hear the sounds.


Understanding the Sounds

In stage 3, we try to make sense of the sound that we are now paying attention to. For example, in the case of the car alarm, we understand that someone is trying to steal our car!

In the case of a conversation, we will try to understand what the other person is telling us. Problems might occur if the other person speaks a different language or is using terminology that is not known to you.



Here, we have an opinion about what we have heard. We pay attention to it and understand it. We decide to remember and get positive, neutral, or negative about it. Often we judge too quickly, e.g. When we have strong beliefs about a topic or if we do not like the person we are listening to.



At this stage, we may react to what we have heard and pay attention to it. In the example of a car alarm, we respond by running out to our car. In a conversation, we could either respond verbally ( with words) or non-verbally ( body language, facial expression).

We can check whether we understood the speaker by asking questions or we could give feedback on what we have heard. If you do not respond properly, your communication usually stops.


Remembering the Communication

The last stage is the remembering stage. This stage happens within the communication. You need to remember what has been said to react and keep the talk going. Most of the time, we will not be able to remember 75% of the details of a conversation in the future unless we jot down some notes afterward.

Types of Listening

Listening may be of the following types:

Pretending Listening

The listener pretends that through his facial expressions, the message is listened to.

Selective/ Biased Listening

It means selecting the desired part and ignoring the undesired part of the message. The listener wants to hear only what he/s wants to hear.

Sympathetic / Empathic Listening

In this listening, we intently and intensively understand the person fully both emotionally and intellectually. It shows the caring attitude of the listener. This type of listening occurs amongst close friends or relatives.

Attentive Listening

It means you pay attention to the words of the speaker. It involves eye contact with the speaker. You allow the speaker to complete thorough thoughts.

Listening for Mutual Creativity

It is a kind of listening in which the communicators stimulate each other’s response.

Intuitive Listening

It means listening through an intuitive mind by silencing the other dialogues going on at the same time.

Role of a Good Listener

Effective Listening is vital for overall efficiency in all our job duties and the roles we play in our personal lives such as partners, parents, kids, or friends. You play different roles in your life. Let’s have a look at it.

  • Cautious: As a good listener you must be cautious and should not be in haste to make decisions and judgments. A Good listener pays careful attention to words.
  • Inquisitive: Being a good listener, you ask questions and become inquisitive. Your aim is not to embarrass or attack but to clarify and refine.
  • Active: You are an active listener, not a lazy one. You work hard to understand and exert energy in listening.
  • Flexible: As a good listener, you understand that everyone has different communication styles. You try to adjust your listening to correspond to the speaker’s communication style.
  • Tactful: You need to be tactful and interrupt intentionally and gently rather than habitually and rashly.
  • Persistent: You as a good listener, are willing to listen to something even if it’s hard to hear. You continue listening until you become offended or turned off by the speaker.
  • Eager: This is important for a good listener he should be eager to listen and remember that he can learn from anyone.
  • Analytical: A good listener is analytical and pays attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Sophisticated: You should understand that every act of communication takes place in a context or setting. You remain sophisticated and decent in this way.
  • Sociable: A good listener understands how important listening is to a relationship. He values and seeks to develop good listening skills.

Purpose of Listening

  • Good listening quickly ends an element of misunderstanding.
  • It indicates your good grooming that leads to valuable gains.
  • It enables you to communicate fluently and nicely.
  • It gives you a good understanding of different topics and subjects.
  • It introduces good decisions and makes your mental ability strong.
  • Good listening increases your knowledge and motivates you.

Barriers/Faults of Listening

Listening skill is as important as the other skills, i.e., speaking, reading, and writing. Good listening skills can be hampered because of some elements.

  • Prejudice
  • External distraction
  • Pre-thinking
  • Semantic barrier
  • Importance of good delivery
  • Information Overload 
  • Poor Communication Skills
  • Judgment and Criticism
  • Overconfidence
  • Technology Distractions


We create hindrances to listening through our own prejudice against the speaker. We lose concentration on what the speaker is saying. We always focus on who is talking. In order to develop good listening skills we must only pay attention to the words.

External distraction

External distraction also plays an important role in misunderstanding the real words of the speaker. There are so many external distractions such as noisy fans, poor lights, music from outside, etc.


Normally 80-160 words are spoken in a minute. Usually, people have the capacity to think at the rate of 800 words per minute. This is the main reason that pre-thinking is the major element among the faults of listening. The listeners should not jump to the conclusion as it mars the beauty of good listening.

Semantic barrier

The semantic barrier is created because of the negative meanings that a listener willingly attaches to the words of the speaker. This can be avoided if we analyze the speech impartially and patiently.

Importance of Good Delivery

If the speech is delivered in a good style it will help the listeners in understanding not only the gist but also the contents of it. Otherwise, a badly delivered speech will make a mess of the meanings.

Information Overload 

Too much information being presented at once can overwhelm the listener, making it challenging to process and retain the key points.

Poor Communication Skills

Ineffective communication by the speaker, including unclear or disorganized speech, can impede understanding and active listening.

Judgment and Criticism

When listeners prematurely judge or criticize the speaker’s ideas or delivery, it can hinder open and constructive dialogue.


Assuming that one already knows what the speaker will say can lead to selective listening and missing important information.

Technology Distractions

The presence of smartphones or other electronic devices can divert attention away from a speaker.

Tips to improve your listening skill

Here are some tips to improve listening skills.

  • We should talk less and listen much as God has blessed us with one tongue and two ears.
  • Listen carefully with patience and concentration.
  • While listening, do not show a casual attitude by looking sideways or leaving your seat. This will create a bad impression.
  • Always listen to learn something. Try to understand the points.
  • While listening, make the notes if possible. It will help you a lot.
  • Always show a positive attitude and never mix your personal feelings about the speaker.
  • Be present and avoid distractions.
  • Maintain eye contact and use nonverbal cues.
  • Ask clarifying questions and summarize.
  • Practice empathy and suspend judgment.
  • Eliminate distractions and take notes.
  • Reflect on your listening habits and seek feedback.
  • Practice active listening regularly.

Final Words

Finally, basic listening skills are fundamental abilities that enable effective communication. These skills include being present, maintaining focus, showing empathy, asking questions, and providing feedback. Developing these skills is essential for building strong relationships, understanding others, and improving overall communication proficiency.

About the Author

Anila Ibrahim

An educationist, web content writer, equipped with an LLB and a Master’s degree in English Literature, as well as a Master of Philosophy in Entrepreneurship. I have a comprehensive understanding of both the English language and the educational landscape. This academic background empowers Anila to deliver content that is not only informative but also thoroughly researched.

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