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How to Identify Conceptual Learners

How to Identify Highly Conceptual Listeners

Posted by Dana Dupuis on Jan 28, 2019 9:00:00 AM
Dana Dupuis

Understanding the way others listen can help you communicate more effectively with them. The ECHO Listening Profile teaches you to recognize four distinct types of listening: Connective, Analytical, Reflective and Conceptual. We all exhibit some combinations of these different styles. However, one style is often more dominant than the others. Recognizing a listener's dominant style is essential if you want to communicate well with him or her. In this article, we'll be looking at people who are highly Conceptual Listeners.

What is Conceptual Listening?

Conceptual Listeners are the individuals who often have a lot of ideas. They tend to focus on the big picture and are extremely creative. They're able to see connections and possibilities that others may miss. While other types of listeners are more data driven (Analytical) or motive driven (Connective), Conceptual Listeners are good at connecting the dots, then coming up with their own ideas and solutions. Here are some typical characteristics to look for in Conceptual Listeners.

  • Original thinkers
    • Highly Conceptual Listeners are original and creative. They’re often the first to propose new product ideas, campaigns or initiatives. In some cases, their ideas are unsettling to others with different listening styles. For example, a highly Analytical Listener might object to a proposal that's not backed by sufficient data while a highly Reflective Listener isn't comfortable with ideas that are outside of his or her experience. 
  • Bring together diverse ideas
    • Conceptual Listeners think systemically, and tend to see how disparate ideas and events come together to add up to a larger picture. They readily see the connections the rest of us don’t.
  • Living in Possibilities
    • Conceptual Listeners are seldom constrained by the past and are constantly listening for what could be.
  • Always in motion
    • Conceptual Listeners don't like to sit still for very long. When seated, they may tap, fidget or doodle. They may tend to multitask more than other types of listeners. When in conversation, they may look around the room rather than maintain steady eye contact. This doesn't indicate a lack of interest, but is an expression of how their minds are constantly seeking new possibilities.
  • Often in creative roles
    • Conceptual Listeners may be artists, entrepreneurs or marketers. However, you may find people in any position with this listening style, from CEO to programmer. These listeners are likely to display a creative approach to whatever positions they hold in an organization. 

These are some of the most common characteristics of highly Conceptual Listeners. Keep in mind that many people exhibit a mixture of listening styles. Those who are highly Conceptual Listeners will tend to exhibit the above qualities more than others. 

Advantages and Challenges of Conceptual Listeners

As with all four listening styles, Conceptual Listening has its benefits, along with some potential blind spots. It's helpful to be aware of these when you encounter listeners with this style.


  • Able to see the big picture
    • This lets highly Conceptual Listeners see aspects of a project or situation others may overlook.
  • Good at brainstorming
    • This listening style is perfectly suited for generating new ideas and solutions.
  • Good at seeing the positive lessons in failure
    • A Conceptual Listener is often able to see failure as a valuable learning experience rather than a permanent setback.


  • May overlook practical considerations
    • If a Conceptual Listener is captured by a certain idea, he or she may not consider relevant facts that stand in the way.
  • Prone to jump from one idea to another
    • This type of thinking can be creative, but can also lead to endless digressions. 
  • May take a long time reaching a conclusion
    • This can be frustrating to others, especially when there's a deadline to reach a decision.

If you're talking to a Conceptual Listener in a sales or negotiating-type situation, it's good to keep these strengths and challenges in mind. Of course, each individual is unique and Conceptual Listeners, like everyone, have their differences. Now let's explore some strategies to use when communicating with these listeners. 

How to Communicate With Conceptual Listeners

Selling and negotiating are more effective if you understand the listening style of the person with whom you're communicating. You wouldn't talk to a Conceptual Listener the same way as you would an Analytical, Reflective or Connective Listener. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when you've determined that your prospect is a highly Conceptual Listener. 

Make Sure You Understand Their Needs

Because Conceptual Listeners have broad interests and like to think big, it's sometimes challenging to determine what they need at the moment. If you're offering several software packages, for example, a Conceptual Listener might find it interesting to talk about your most advanced package even though he's a long way from being ready for that. In fact, make sure you qualify him or her to make sure you have anything relevant to offer. The sales principle of qualifying your prospect is particularly relevant with Conceptual listeners. 

Focus on the Big Picture

With an Analytical Listener, you'd want to go into detail, backing up your points by revealing statistics and studies. Conceptual Listeners, however, look at the broader perspective. Too many details tend to bore them. This doesn't mean you shouldn't mention relevant facts and data, but you'll want to focus on the more impressive long-term results that your product or service can deliver. 

Provide Room for Creative Ideas

Conceptual Listeners often find original and unconventional ways to work. If you're making a proposal or describing a product or service, don't fixate on how it will turn out or be used. Your Conceptual Listener may come up with possibilities that you never considered. When selling to Conceptual Listeners, the best approach is to pique their interest and let them fill in the specifics (unless, of course, they ask you about certain details). 

Stay on Topic

One challenge with Conceptual Listeners is that they can jump from idea to idea until the original topic has been forgotten. While it's good to let them riff on relevant issues, make sure the conversation doesn't get too far afield. If you notice that you've veered, gently steer the discussion back to the main point. 

Moving Forward

Whether engaging them as prospects or working with them side-by-side on a team, recognize that highly Conceptual Listeners are the visionaries of the team or organization. Their contributions are essential for generating new ideas and finding creative solutions. Next time you find yourself talking to a Conceptual Listener, we invite you to try some of the above pointers and see how it benefits the conversation.  

ECHO Listening Intelligence provides tools and resources to help you understand the different styles of listening. It all starts with the ECHO Listening Assessment and the ECHO Listening Profile. Take your assessment today and start selling better!


Topics: Listening for Business, Listening Styles, Listening, Listening for Sales