What’s your favourite genre of music? Pop? Classical? Maybe, heavy metal or EDM? Just as we may have varying tastes in music, we also have varying listening styles.

With World Music Day happening today, 21 June, we wanted to share some listening skills learned from Minehart, Symon, and Rock in the Harvard Business Review article, “What’s Your Listening Style?“.


1. Know our reasons for listening

Know the goals of the conversation.

Is the person looking for an efficient solution or a listening ear to offer support and care?

Is the speaker looking for an emotional output or an honest critique?

Understanding the goals also helps us know if we have the capacity to listen or will the person be better off talking to someone else. Knowing the goal of the conversation also helps us refocus on the speaker when we feedback from our own experiences. Some great ways exemplified includes showing curiosity or asking for elaboration on their experience after sharing personal thoughts.

2. Recognise our normal listening style

We all have our varying styles – but they may not be as effective in achieving particular listening goals. For example, your default style may be incredibly task-focused and great for making rapid decisions. However, applying this style may fail to give your family the relational support they need. In this case, we may also miss being able to understand or validate the speaker, missing out on an opportunity to build the relationship.

3. Adapt to situations and always clarify.

Validating and responding with curiosity can help the speaker feel heard and understood. While adjusting from our everyday listening style may be hard, adapting to the conversation’s needs can lead to better results or information received to meet the goals. Of course, one will not be able to adapt if they are still unclear on the needs of the conversation or are uncertain about sharing emotions or vulnerability. Resisting the urge to give an automatic response and inviting for more details to understand the situation can also help reveal opportunities to meet longer-term goals, such as parents wanting to understand their children.

Listening is essential, but we may not always meet the speaker’s needs or concerns. Distinguishing between the four listening styles – analytical, relational, critical, and task-focused – and knowing how to adapt will impact a conversation significantly. Give it a go next time you are listening!


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