levels of listening

What Are The 5 Levels of Listening? Becoming a Better Leader

Effective leadership begins with effective listening. The ability to listen attentively and empathetically is a crucial skill that separates good leaders from great ones. In this blog, we will explore the 5 levels of listening and how they can help you become a better leader. From ignoring to empathetic listening, we’ll cover each level in detail and explain why attentive and empathetic listening is crucial for building trust and fostering relationships. We’ll also discuss how effective listening can increase your leadership capacity, improve communication, and show care and understanding toward your team members. So, let’s dive in and learn how you can become a better leader by improving your listening skills!

Why is effective listening important in leadership?

Effective listening is an essential component of effective leadership. When leaders listen actively and attentively to their team members, they demonstrate respect, build trust, and create a culture of open communication and collaboration. By listening carefully to what their team members say, leaders can gain valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing their organization, as well as the needs and concerns of their employees. This information can be used to make better decisions, develop more effective strategies, and build stronger relationships with team members.

In addition, effective listening can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts by ensuring everyone is on the same page and clearly understands expectations and goals. Effective listening is a critical skill for leaders who want to inspire their teams, drive results, and create a positive workplace culture.

The 5 levels of listening

Incorporating the different types of listening skills can help you become a better listener and leader. According to Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” there are five levels of listening: Ignoring, Pretend Listening, Selective Listening, Attentive Listening, and Empathetic Listening. By paying close attention to body language and making eye contact with the speaker during a conversation (Attentive Listening), you can build trust and show that you care about their point of view. Empathic listening takes this one step further by allowing you to understand their perspective and emotional energy better. Developing these habits will lead to better relationships in your personal life and customer service interactions. Let’s know each of them in detail.

Ignoring happens often

The first level of listening is the ignoring level. The ignoring style of listening is when the listener chooses to ignore or tune out the speaker’s message. This can happen for various reasons, such as disinterest in the topic, feeling overwhelmed or distracted, or needing more respect for the speaker. Ignoring someone when they are trying to communicate with you can be hurtful and damaging to relationships, as it sends the message that their thoughts and feelings are not valued.

It’s common for people at all levels of communication to ignore others when they speak. However, it surely damages relationships in the workplace too. Let’s understand through an example:

The manager walks by a team member’s desk, noticing a distressed expression and overhearing them express concerns about a challenging project. However, the manager ignores the situation, assuming it will resolve itself, and continues their tasks without addressing or offering assistance, disregarding the need for active listening and support.

Pretending to listen causes problems

Pretending is the second level of listening, The pretend listening style is when a person appears to be listening but is not fully engaged or attentive. This can involve nodding, making brief eye contact, and giving short verbal responses but not truly processing or understanding what the speaker is saying. Pretend listening can damage relationships and communication, leading to misunderstandings and frustration. 

For example, during a team meeting, the manager nods occasionally. Still, their mind wanders as they scroll through emails, missing critical points raised by team members, resulting in a lack of meaningful engagement.

Selective listening leads to misunderstandings

Selective listening is a level of listening in which the listener focuses on specific parts of a message while ignoring or filtering out other details. This can be intentional or unintentional and may occur for various reasons, such as distractions, preconceived biases, or a lack of interest in particular topics. Selective listening can be helpful in certain situations, such as when focusing on important information in a noisy environment. Still, it can also lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication if essential details are noticed or addressed. 

For instance, in a brainstorming session, the manager only focuses on ideas that align with their preconceived notions, dismissing alternative suggestions from team members without considering their merits, limiting innovation and collaboration.

Attentive listening builds trust

The attentive listening style is where the listener focuses on the speaker, actively trying to understand and absorb what they are saying. Attentive listeners use their body language and verbal cues to show that they are engaged in the conversation, such as making eye contact, nodding, and asking clarifying questions. This listening style is vital for building strong relationships, as it helps foster trust and understanding between individuals. Attentive listeners have better communication skills; they can pick up on subtle nuances in conversation and respond appropriately.

Effective communication skills are a great way to build better customer or colleague relationships. Attentive listening is essential to effective communication as it involves being fully present and focused on the speaker without any distractions. Doing so shows the speaker that you care about their point of view, and it can help build trustful relationships over time.

For example, the manager sits with undivided attention, maintaining eye contact as a team member shares concerns. They ask follow-up questions, seek clarification, and demonstrate a genuine interest in understanding their perspective, fostering trust and effective communication.

Empathetic listening fosters relationships

The last level of listening is empathetic listening. Empathetic listening involves comprehending the speaker’s point of view by actively putting oneself in their place. This type of listening fosters better relationships and trust between individuals, improving communication skills and making one a better leader. Practicing empathetic listening can help one enhance their level of attentive listening, which involves giving your full attention without any distractions. Making eye contact, paying close attention to body language, and understanding the emotions behind words are all crucial parts of active listening.

By practicing empathic listening, individuals can take their communication skills to the next level, leading to relatability with others and ultimately achieving success in personal and professional life.

For example, the manager notices a team member struggling with a personal issue. They offer a private meeting, actively listen without judgment, and provide:

  • Support.
  • Showing empathy and compassion for their well-being.
  • Cultivating a supportive and caring work environment.

How effective listening improves leadership?

Listening is an essential communication skill that plays a vital role in effective leadership. Leaders can build trust and rapport by actively paying close attention to their team members’ needs, concerns, and ideas without any distraction or pretense. Effective listening improves relatability by showing care for customers and team members alike. Listening actively involves eye contact, body language, intuition, empathy, and emotional energy for better communication skills. It ultimately leads to better relationships with the team or customers in all aspects of leadership.

Increases capacity and builds rapport

To build stronger connections with team members, listening attentively and practicing empathic listening is essential. Attentive listening requires giving full attention to the speaker and paying close attention to body language and nonverbal cues. On the other hand, empathic listening involves putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes and understanding their point of view. By improving your listening skills, you can become a better listener, create a positive work environment, and show care for customers. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” emphasizes that effective communication starts by seeking first to understand before being understood.

Shows care and understanding

To demonstrate care and understanding towards your team members, listening actively is crucial. This means giving your full attention to the speaker while maintaining eye contact, avoiding distractions, asking clarifying questions, and showing empathy toward them. Active listening is a great way to build better relationships with your team members and customers. Practicing attentive listening skills can take your listening skills to the next level. Effective communication is vital in coaching or customer service situations. Listening can help you understand different points of view or emotions that will assist in making informed decisions. Misunderstandings caused by selective listening or pretending to listen can be avoided if we pay close attention to practical communication skills like empathetic listening.


Effective listening is the key to becoming a better leader. It’s not just about hearing what others say but about actively engaging with them and understanding their perspective. The five levels of listening – ignoring, pretending, selective, attentive, and empathetic – are crucial for leaders to master. Doing so increases your capacity for empathy and builds rapport with your team members. Effective listening shows care and understanding, enhancing trust and fostering better team relationships.

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