What is Effective Listening?

What do you mean by effective listening? How does it differ from hearing?

As per the International Listening Association (ILA), effective listening is “A process receiving, constructing the meaning from and responding to the spoken or nonverbal message”.

Effective listening is an interpretive process. On the other hand, hearing is a process where a user listens through all of his body, mind and concentration. Thus all these filters make use of the hearing and convert this to a meaningful, interesting and easy to understand mode.

Our subconscious mind performs planning rehearsal and evaluation process. We should train our mind in such a way that it must not interfere with effective listening.

On the other hand, hearing is just only the conversion of sound to rheumatic talking signal. It might be meaningful or unmeaningful.

Time spent in communication activity-

  1. Listening-40%
  2. Speaking-30%
  3. Reading-20%
  4. Speaking-10%

So the steps for proper listening are-

  • Hearing properly
  • Understanding more clearly
  • Judging-This is the most important aspect of learning.

What is Hearing?

Hearing (or audition; adjectival form: “auditory” or “aural”) is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. It is one of the traditional five senses. The inability to hear is called deafness.

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effective listening
effective listening

In humans and other vertebrates, hearing is performed primarily by the auditory system: vibrations are detected by the ear and transduced into nerve impulses that are perceived by the brain (primarily in the temporal lobe). Like touch, audition requires sensitivity to the movement of molecules in the world outside the organism. Both hearing and touch are types of mechanosensation.

Effective Listening process
Effective Listening process

So in Hearing your all mental filters(Ear/mind/eye/concentration) do not work in sync. Effectively this is a process to detect if something happening.

In a situation when people do not have an interest in a topic but due to other factors(manager/showoff etc) compel to go for a meeting, this situation arises.
Sometimes if we do not get what is being told and loose the context listening becomes hearing.

Listening vs Hearing:

While the dictionary gives similar wording, actually there are differences between listening and hearing.

Listening is an active psychological process.Hearing is a passive process.
Listening allows us to attach the meaning to all the information we receive.Hearing does not attach us to all information we receive.
Listening needs concentration and deliberate efforts.Hearing does need concentration or deliberate efforts.
Components are-

  • Hearing
  • Selection of ideas of the topic
  • Attention
  • Understanding
  • Evaluation
  • Storage of memory.
The component is only ear (hearing).
Listening needs the energy to listen and the desire to grasp.Hearing can happen without any effort.

Stages of Listening

Stages of Listening
Stages of Listening


Hearing is the first step of effective listening at the listener or receiver and during this process listener allows all sounds to fall on-ear.

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This is the second process of an effective listening where the listener picks up stimuli to select what to grab and what to ignore.


Attending is the advanced part of selecting. Attending is purely a mental process for focusing on a stimulus for a specific period of time.

The stimuli can be internal or external. The time span ranges from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on the scenario. It is said seeing many things are inversely proportional to concentrate.

So it is advisable to attend stimuli at a time for a brief period of time.


This is the key differentiator for hearing and listening. Using past experience with the selected stimuli listener assign the meaning of the incoming sound. Past experience plays a significant role in understanding.


In this phase, listeners, upon understanding the topic/content analyzes the evidence. This can be able to sort facts and able to determine the intent of the speaker.


The facts in this phase are stored in the brain(memory) so that listener can think on the context again.

Features of Listening:-

  • Obtain information
  • Provide evaluation power
  • Listeners can be empathetic.

Effective Listening Advantages

  1. From verbal and nonverbal information we can interpret and evaluate a proper meaning.
  2. We can execute response after proper planning and practice.
  3. Improve understanding regarding the facts and ideas.
  4. Helps to avoid miscommunication.
  5. Helps to gain better knowledge.
  6. Improves the quality of relationship with fellow co-workers and in personal life.

Barriers of Effective Listening:-

  • Hearing things that we really want to hear and exclude others.
  • Turning the stimuli when viewpoint differs.
  • Formulating and rehearing our response too early.
  • Inattentive mind and closed mind.
  • Reaching a conclusion too early.
  • Hearing anxiously or self consciously.
  • Excessive interruption either by talking or using gestures.
  • Different cultural issues.
  • Biasness due to ignorance and prejudice.
  • Too early judgement on the topic.
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How to make an Effective listening process?

  • Remove distraction as far as possible.
  • Be respectful to the speaker.
  • Be respective to the other persons.
  • Stop interruption (talking).
  • Grasp fully the concept before evaluation.
  • Do not be too defensive.
  • Put attention.
  • Ask a relevant question.
  • Enquire from another person for their understanding.

Share and Enjoy !

2 thoughts on “What is Effective Listening?

  1. Nice content and good writing. I really like this site so much a lot of stuff and very informative too.Thanks for sharing a good things.

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