Everyone listens to and processes information differently. Since listening is half of communication, the benefits of listening intelligently are profound. One study of 267 leading U.S. businesses found that upgrading your team members' communication effectiveness is associated with a 30% improvement in your organization's market value. Additionally, small and medium-sized businesses with 100 employees or more can save nearly $525,000 annually just by offering and properly implementing communication tools that help members of their organization effectively engage with clients and co-workers alike.
Cognitive science has revealed that everyone has a habitual listening style that they use to filter, analyze, and interpret information. There are four primary listening preferences that people use to navigate the world: Connective, Reflective, Analytical, and Conceptual. Read more to discover how to identify these four different listening styles in your daily communication and how best to connect with individuals using this type of listening.
Connective Listeners tend to focus on what the interaction means for others, such as how the information they are hearing relates to other employees, departments, business partners, investors, etc. People who prefer Connective Listening tend to filter what they hear through their interests in other people, groups, processes, and audiences. Dominant Connective Listeners easily provide support and empathy to others and can appreciate the broad application of information. On the other hand, they can tend to accept information at face value and be ruled by emotion.
Highly Connective Listeners tend to be warm and expressive. You'll notice that they are somewhat effusive in their body language. They have a tendency to nod, make eye contact, and smile (more than the other listening styles) in response to your comments. They also may lean in when you are speaking with them in an attempt to create a welcoming presence, indicating that you are the center of their attention.
Key Ways to Connect
A great way to break the ice with highly Connective Listeners is by asking questions about their team's concerns and priorities. Another key way to relate is to be open with your emotional signals. Since they pay close attention to how you are reacting to what they say, it can be helpful to try to match a Connective Listener's warm and friendly position. When mirroring their body language and matching their communication style, make sure to do so authentically. They place extremely high value on how well they have personally or professionally built a rapport with someone, so sharing your stories and experiences can be a helpful strategy for winning a Connective Listener's continued attention.
This type of listener filters what they hear through their own knowledge, experience, and purposes. People who prefer Reflective Listening check what they hear against their own library of information to understand how it applies to current needs or interests, at times being overly introspective. A highly Reflective Listener will tend to become subject-matter-experts of whatever the topic at hand is.
Since highly Reflective Listeners are constantly checking incoming information against their own knowledge and experience, they often appear to turn inward when others are communicating with them. They may gaze off into the distance, tilt their head to the side, and appear generally disconnected because they are engaging in a kind of deep thinking. A Reflective Listener is often misperceived as disengaged when actually they are filtering through their own personal lens. However, when an opinion has been formed, their body language can abruptly shift to leaning in with authority.
Key Ways to Connect
A highly Reflective Listener is most interested in how the present subject connects to them. When appropriate, it can be helpful to communicate information in a way that makes it personal to them. You can ask these type of listeners for their own personal experiences and input to further engage them.
Those who are highly Analytical Listeners find clarity in their communications by considering facts and figures first. When you interact with a highly Analytical Listener, you may notice that they engage in conversation about measurable data, rather than qualitative ideas. Someone who steers the conversation away from emotional engagements and towards objective facts is likely an Analytical Listener. Their delivery tends to be quite literal, with a strong focus on the details needed for successful implementation.
Highly Analytical listeners can often appear to be skeptical or critical when listening. They tend to lean back and away from the speaker, evaluating the information being presented. Sometimes they can even have a furrowed brow, appearing as though they are doubting the speaker, when in actuality they are vetting the information for truth and practicality.
Key Ways to Connect
Focus on practical, down-to-earth information and avoid abstract, big picture ideas. Allow them time to process what they hear so that they feel like they've had the opportunity to connect all the dots on the information you've provided them. They often want to just learn the information they need and move on, so stay focused on the topic at hand, while avoiding unnecessary "small talk" that you might use to bond with highly Connective Listeners.
These are the individuals who often have a lot of ideas. They tend to focus on the big picture, are extremely creative, and filter what they hear through their interest in concepts and possibilities. They're able to see connections and possibilities that others may miss. Conceptual Listeners are often the first to propose new product ideas, campaigns, or initiatives. They are seldom constrained by the past and are constantly listening for what could be, sometimes overlooking practical considerations.
Conceptual Listeners often appear energetic and enthusiastic and don't like to sit still for very long. When seated, they may tap, fidget, or doodle. They will often display urgency and excitement in their body language, using broad hand gestures and emotive expressions. 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.
Key Ways to Connect
Because Conceptual Listeners have broad interests and like to think big, make clear what the overall purpose or "zoomed-out" topic is. With the Analytical Listeners discussed above, you'd want to go into detail, providing statistics and studies when relevant. 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 more on the long-term impact or process. Provide room for creative ideas to allow for the Conceptual Listener to come up with possibilities that you never considered.
ECHO Listening Intelligence provides tools and resources to help you understand the different styles of listening, helping to improve both your daily communication and creating a culture of listening in your company. Check out our upcoming Certification Trainings to learn how you can help to advance your client's team communications, thus improving collaboration, productivity, and ultimately increasing the bottom line.