What is critical listening?

In this blog we will discuss what critical listening is.

We will also briefly discuss why critical listening is important and what you can do to improve your critical listening skills. 

What is critical listening?

Critical listening is a form of active listening with concentration and effort to discern what i s  being said as well as the added effort to analyse and judge what is being said to develop an opinion of the message being shared.

Critical listening takes the effort of not only understanding the message but also critically evaluating what was spoken, comparing it to factual evidence, separating it from personal opinions, and connecting it to older learnings to form an informed opinion on the matter discussed.

This form of listening is used in various situations- mostly professional and academic situations where this form of listening is encouraged to form divergent thinking to generate new ideas and also develop new solutions to problems. 

This from of thinking in academic is mostly encouraged in students so that they can develop informed idea of the matter that is being discussed, form their own opinions, and also generate divergent thinking and newer ideas and perspectives on the matter.This form of thinking is what helps researchers come up with hypothesis and new research topics and ideas.

Critical listening is not appropriate for all situations- for example, in one to one emotional situations where someone is talking about their grief; in this case there is no need for critical listening.

When someone is engaging in critical listening the task of the listener involves evaluating the claims that are being made by the speaker- the cross check based on their own knowledge and factual evidence if what is being said is based on opinion or facts.

When we consider the day to day application of critical listening, it mostly has to do with an individual forming their own opinion. It is through critical listening that they can analyse what is being said, engage in critical thinking, and form opinions on the topic of discussion. 

For example, when someone is about to buy something they will have to make an informed decision by engaging in critically analysing what is being said by the salesperson and forming their opinion about it to develop a plan of action- to buy or not to buy. 

When someone is critically listening these are the processes at play:

  • They are checking the authenticity of what is being said.
  • They are assessing the accuracy of the message being conveyed.
  • They are differentiating facts from opinions of the speaker.
  • They are deciding for themselves how accurate the message is based on past knowledge.
  • They are opening themselves to new ideas
  • They are relying on reason to differentiate facts from assumptions
  • They are engaging in critical thinking where they actively process, analyse, and conceptualise the information.
  • They engage in reasoning and reflection based on rational thought.

Why is critical listening important?

We will discuss the importance of critical listening based on various contexts.

In professional work settings

This form of listening is used in professionals where this form of listening is encouraged to form divergent thinking within the group. 

For example, within a team- if this form of critical listening and critical thinking is not present, it is possible that the team will engage in groupthink which tends to be counterproductive. 

So in order to generate new ideas and also develop new solutions to problems, critical thinking becomes an important asset to any professional workplace. 

In academia

This form of thinking in academics is mostly encouraged in students so that they can develop informed ideas of the matter that is being discussed, form their own opinions, and also generate divergent thinking and newer ideas and perspectives on the matter.

This form of thinking is what helps researchers come up with hypothesis and new research topics and ideas.

In day to day life context

When we consider the day to day application of critical listening, it mostly has to do with an individual forming their own opinion. 

It is through critical listening that they can analyse what is being said, engage in critical thinking, and form opinions on the topic of discussion. 

For example, when someone is about to buy something they will have to make an informed decision by engaging in critically analysing what is being said by the salesperson and forming their opinion about it to develop a plan of action- to buy or not to buy. 

Another application is when an average individual is listening to a speech or to the news outlet. Being able to listen critically is what allows the listener to evaluate the claims that are being made by the speaker- the cross check based on their own knowledge and factual evidence to form their own personal opinions on the matter. 

How to improve critical listening?

According to the University of Minnesota, here are a few things that you can do to improve your critical listening:

Recognise the Difference between Facts and Opinions

An important part of critical listening is the ability to separate the opinions of the speaker from the facts- this means that a critical listener should be able to differentiate between whether the speaker is being factual or they are expressing an opinion. 

So it is very important that a critical listener is able to differentiate between fact and opinion because it is possible that individuals can find it hard to accept facts when they have an opposing opinion about the issue that is being discussed. 

A successful critical listener should be able to separate what are facts and what are simply opinions of the speakers so that the listener, even if they agree or disagree, can understand what is being said and based on what.

Uncovering Assumptions

A critical listener should be able to understand when facts are supported with evidence versus when the speaker is making assumptions- usually assumptions involve gaps where the speaker fills in their own opinions and ideas which may not be factually accurate. 

So a listener should be able to notice these assumptions so that you can question the speaker’s message to check the validity of what is being said instead of being persuaded by these assumptions that the speaker has made and taking it at face value. 

There will be times when you will hear assumptions in someone;s speech and in daily conversations as well, so taking the time to understand whether what is being said is fact or assumptions can help you develop more effective critical listening that can help you get credible information. 

Be Open to New Ideas

An effective critical listener is someone who is open to new ideas and new perceptions. At times some individuals might be so stuck in their own ideas and beliefs that they completely reject that of others which leads to a huge loss of information that can be beneficial. 

So, to be an effective listener, you must be open to new information that is being said even if it is something that we disagree on. However, opening up yourself to new ideas and new information that might be going against what you believe in can help you correct your own understanding of the world. 

This does not mean that you have to agree with every idea that you are faced with in life; rather, a critical listener must be able to listen to what is being said so that you can later on evaluate what was said and make a well-informed decision on what was said later on. 

Rely on Reason and Common Sense

A critical listener should rely on the most basic form of reason and common sense as we all have well-informed and factually based evidence.

An effective critical listener who has a good relationship with their gut instinct related to common sense is someone who will be able to pick out instances when what is being said is not credible and this can form as a warming system for them.

If the message that is being put across appears to be inconsistent to what your reason tells you, it is important for a critical listener to research into the mattern on their own before taking in or rejecting the message entirely.

Relate New Ideas to Old Ones

A critical listener should also be able to relate new ideas to older ideas that you hold, this can allow you to make effective comparisons to what you already know with older information which can help you get a deeper understanding of the message that is being said. 

Take Notes

Another important skill that you need as you develop or improve your critical listening skill is note taking. Take notes when someone is giving a speech or a lecture but remember that the note taking should be selective- focusing on what is important and not the recording itself. 

It’s important to find a balance between listening well and taking good notes. This can help you critically assess what was said, carry out your own investigation to what was being said and work on developing your own stance on the matter.

Conclusion

FAQ related to Critical listening

What type of listening is critical?

Critical listening is a form of active listening with concentration and effort to discern what i s  being said as well as the added effort to analyse and judge what is being said to develop an opinion of the message being shared.

Critical listening takes the effort of not only understanding the message but also critically evaluating what was spoken, comparing it to factual evidence, separating it from personal opinions, and connecting it to older learnings to form an informed opinion on the matter discussed.

What are the 4 types of listening?

The four types of listening include:

  • Deep Listening to understand the perspective of the listening.
  • Full Listening that pays attention to what is being said.
  • Critical Listening that critically analyses what is being said and making evaluations.
  • Therapeutic Listening that involves empathy and reflection on the matter that is being discussed.

What are three main types of listening?

The three main types of listening are:

  • Informational Listening where the listener listens to learn the information being shared. 
  • Critical Listening where the listener critically analyses what is being said and making evaluations.
  • Therapeutic or Empathetic Listening (Listening to Understand Feeling and Emotion)

What is critical listening music?

Critical listening in music involves paying attention to the technical aspects of music and sound such as frequency response, dynamic range, tone,etc.It is a listening skill that most musicians have and learn to develop.

References

What is Critical Listening? Study.com. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022. https://study.com/learn/lesson/critical-listening-skills-examples.html

 Listening Critically. University of Minnesota library. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022. https://open.lib.umn.edu/publicspeaking/chapter/4-5-listening-critically/

Critical Listening Exercises. ListenWise. Retrieved on 22nd Feb 2022. https://listenwise.com/critical_listening#

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