Comprehensive Listening (+13 Other Types)

In this brief guide, we will look at comprehensive listening and 13 other types of listening, as well as other related topics and frequently asked questions about listening.

What is Comprehensive Listening?

Comprehensive Listening refers to the process of listening to someone at the same time as understanding what is being said, and this allows for the listener to be able to spend less time making sense of what was said.

Comprehensive listening involves the use of the parts of the brain that are involved in listening as well as the ones involved in making memories, assigning affect to stimulus, comprehension and planning, and so on.

In addition to engaging different parts of the cerebral cortex, another feature of comprehensive listening is that the person needs to have good communication and vocabulary skills, because the linguistic aspects of speech are an important part of comprehensive listening.

Another key feature of comprehensive listening is that it is in fact important to all the other subtypes of listening, and it is usually found in almost all active listening methods, because our brains are always working to figure out what they are hearing.

Naturally, when understanding something is involved, the listener also needs appropriate vocabulary and language skills which is why when overly complicated language or technical jargon is used, most people who are usually good at comprehensive listening may not be able to cope so well.

Another situation that may often complicate comprehensive listening is the fact that when two different people listening to the same thing may understand the message in two different ways, because again, our brains work differently and our different experiences can often dictate how we think of certain things.  

This sort of thing can make comprehensive listening especially hard to do in a group setting, and places like a classroom or business meeting where numerous meanings are to be derived from what has been said can make it challenging for comprehensive listening to take place or for the listener to be able to decide what information from comprehensive listening they want to retain.

Lastly, comprehensive listening can also be complimented by subliminal or subconscious messages from non-verbal communication, such as the tone of voice, gestures and other body language.  

In comprehensive listening the person may also make use of these in addition to what they are hearing, which means that these messages or subtext can really aid communication and comprehension.

However, subtext is not always great, and it can sometimes also confuse and potentially lead to misunderstanding, which gets in the way of comprehensive listening or understanding the correct message.

Whether one is engaging in comprehensive listening or not, the advice would usually be that one seek clarification and use skills such as reflection so that they can help their comprehension skills be better.

13 Other Types of Listening (With Examples)

Informational Listening

Informational listening is used in an informational listening when the primary purpose of the individual is to gain information, which may sound similar to comprehensive listening but it is different because comprehensive listening may be used as a manner of gaining information. 

Informational listening may be used most in education and at work, or even when someone listens to the news or watches a documentary.

Other examples of informational listening may be when someone tells you a recipe or talks when a customer service representative talks you through a technical problem with a computer.

Informational listening is one of the active listening types, and it may require concentration and a conscious effort on the part of the listener.

Critical Listening

Critical listening is different from informational listening because it is done with the express idea of criticizing, or scrutinizing the subject, and figuring out what is wrong with it that may be fixed.

A music teacher listening to their student play an instrument or sing might engage in critical listening, or even someone who is trying to tune their instrument.

Similarly, teachers asking questions are also engaging in critical listening because their primary purpose is to figure out what the student does not know or does not know well enough. We can be said to be engaged in critical listening when the goal is to evaluate or scrutinize what is being said.

Critical listening is another example of active listening but it actually requires more active behavior than informational listening and it may also make use of some problem-solving techniques or some kind of decision-making directed at fixing what is wrong with what the person just heard.

One might also think of critical listening as using the same processes as critical reading as both involve analyses of the information that has been received and making decisions based on that.

Therapeutic or Empathic Listening

Therapeutic or Empathic listening is all about attempting to understand the feelings and emotion, or even thoughts and experiences, of the speaker, but instead of sympathizing with them or feeling bad for them, one tries to put themselves into someone’s shoes and think about things from their perspective.

A therapist is the best example of therapeutic or empathic listening, because they listen with the express purpose of helping people face their problems, and they cannot do that if they don’t empathize with the other person.

Empathy involves the process of deeply connecting with another person and it is also not the same as sympathy, because it involves more things than being compassionate or feeling sorry for somebody, it involves a realization and understanding of another person’s point of view. 

Empathic Listening can be something that can be honed over time and it is not something that someone needs to be born with because it has a more emotional component to it than other types of listening, which is something most of us are capable of.

Discriminative listening

Discriminative listening is the most basic type of listening, and in this type of listening the listener differentiates between the different sounds they are listening to.

When one is not able to listen to or understand the differences, they cannot make sense of the meaning, and therefore they cannot evaluate such differences adequately.

Babies and toddlers can differentiate between the sounds of their mother’s and father’s voices and that of others around them, which proves the basic and fundamental nature of discriminative listening.

Discriminative listening might become difficult when the sounds of a language change, which may be why so many people who understand a language and syntax may still find it difficult to follow a native speaker.

This phenomenon by which a language sounds so different depending on what user it comes from is called Prosody.

An example of discriminative listening is when someone tries to listen to various soundtracks and tries to figure out which one they have heard before and which they have not.

Biased listening

Biased listening is when someone hears only what they want to hear, and usually it involves a high degree of misinterpretation of the message that is being conveyed.

Biased listening may also be deep-rooted in stereotypes and other biases, such as self-serving bias or attribution bias.

An example of biased listening might be when someone listens to a person they don’t like, explain a failure they experienced but the listener writes them off as being incompetent despite what they are saying, because they have already made up their mind about the person’s skills.

Evaluative listening

In evaluative listening, judgments might be made about what the other person is saying, and this is usually done in an active manner where the person expressly seeks to assess the truth of what is being said. 

In this type of listening one might also judge what is being said against their values, and they may also assess them as good or bad, worthy or unworthy.

Typically, evaluative listening may be found in circumstances when the Jury listens to the cases lawyers are making.

Evaluative listening may also be called judgmental or interpretive listening.

Appreciative listening

In appreciative listening, the listener is looking for certain information or features of the message that they will appreciate, for example something that helps them meet their needs and goals. 

Appreciative listening may also be engaged when someone is listening to good music, poetry or maybe even the stirring words of a great leader.

Rapport Listening

Rapport listening, as the name suggests, involves the type of listening that helps people build a  rapport with others, and this type of listening is involved in encouraging the other person to trust and like the listener.

An example of this might be a salesman, who makes an effort to listen carefully to what you are saying as a way to promote trust and potentially make a sale.  

Rapport listening is also an important component of negotiation.

Selective Listening

Selective listening is considered to be a more negative type  as it implies that the listener is somehow biased to what they are hearing, or they are only listening to the part they like or are not totally biased against. 

The Bias in selective listening can be based on preconceived ideas or emotionally difficult communications that interfere with the process of listening or comprehending what is being said.

This type of listening is a type of failing communication and an example of this might be when someone who is angry with you refuses to listen to any reasons you might give them or any pleas you might make because of their emotional reaction.

Dialogic listening

The word ‘dialogue’ stems from the Greek words ‘dia’, meaning ‘through’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘words’ which means that dialogic listening refers to learning through conversation and in this type of listening there is usually an engaged interchange of ideas and information.

In dialogic listening there is an action of actively seeking to learn more about another person and an example of this may include two people on a date.

Dialogic listening is sometimes known as ‘relational listening’.

Relationship listening

Relationship listening is used to develop or sustain a relationship and the most obvious example of this is when lovers talk for hours and attend closely to what each other has to say when the same words from someone else would seem boring.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

Dichotic Listening

Dichotic listening is a type of listening that happens in experiments most often, but may happen to someone who is in a crowded space and is focusing on two different sources of sound that they need to be attending to.

Dichotic listening is when someone is paying attention to 2 sources of messages simultaneously, and the most clear example of this may be attention experiments that involve the researchers playing two different messages to see what the person focuses on more.

Analytical Listening

Analytical listening is a manner of listening to an audio composition, piece of music, or a sound collection in which the meaning of the sounds are interpreted as they are heard.

Analytical listening is an active process of listening rather than the more passive type of passive listening where the listener merely pays attention to the sounds stimuli that is being provided to them.

An example of analytical listening might be when music producers who scout for talent in random locations or in bars or other places where people might sing to get discovered, have to learn to listen analytically so that they may be able to identify the timbres and textures of a voice, which in turn helps them articulate their requirements to the voice talent, to elicit the best vocal performance. 


In this brief guide, we looked at comprehensive listening and 13 other types of listening, as well as other related topics.

The types of listening serve us well when we are trying to figure out what skills we want to develop based on what we are doing or what we want to do.

Types of listening like comprehensive listening in particular can be very beneficial to people who need to pay special attention to what they are hearing and what they need to do with the heard material.

If you have any questions or comments about comprehensive listening or one of the other 13 types of listening, please feel free to reach out to us any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 4 types of listening styles?

The four types of Listening styles are: People – Oriented, Action – Oriented, Content – Oriented, and Time – Oriented.

What are the 7 types of listening?

Here are the 7 types of listening:

Discriminative listening. 
Appreciative listening.  
Biased listening. 
Comprehension listening. 
Critical listening.
Evaluative listening. 
Sympathetic listening. 
Empathetic listening.

What is comprehensive listening?

Comprehensive listening is when the primary focus of the listener is on understanding the message or messages that are being communicated and for this type of understanding to come through in the process of listening, the listener first needs appropriate vocabulary and language skills.

Comprehensive listening is the type of listening that allows for the user to understand the subject as it is being communicated and not spend additional time after listening to figure out what was said and so on.

What are the 5 types of listening?

Here are the 5 types of listening:

Appreciative listening. 
Empathic listening. 
Evaluative listening.
Discerning listening. 
Comprehensive listening. 


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