Listening Style

Speak to Reach All Four

Speechmastery in public speaking requires understanding the Listening Style of the audience In addition to the various types of listening public speakers concern themselves with, of greater interest should be the way the audience listens.

Listening style can be categorized into four different classifications. The 1984 book Whole Brain Thinking reported on a 20 year research project by Dr. David Merrill and Dr. Roger Reid on how the mind works. Their findings demonstrated that an effective speaker must be aware of at least 4 different styles of listeners.

To reach each different type of listening requires speaking to meet the unique personality or psychological needs of an audience.

This is a very basic look of the make up of an audience that would be listening to public speaking. When we speak, to feel as though you connected and to be able to say the audience is listening is an understatement. More importantly, how are they listening? What is the style of listening used by each individual in the audience? What is the psychology of listening?

Listening Style: Four Types of Listening


They will have puzzled looks while listening. They will be questioning, thoughtful and skeptical during the talk. Body language will include rubbing chin and or brow. They will be evaluating and critiquing the information and delivery.

If you're new to public speaking, these are the listeners to get your critique from. You also need to give them things to analyze with our boring everyone else.


These are the results oriented men and women of action. They are also impatient. They will be the ones usually sitting at the front of the audience. They ask, 'How can I use this information now.' 'How is this practical?' They don't need to know when or why if these are self evident. To them, the information application is self evident. Their need is for what, and how that is new. Their listening style is, 'Get to the point.'

Great public speaking requires meeting their need while not leaving everyone else behind.


These are the audiences that care for you as the speaker. They also care for the audience. Those new to public speaking will enjoy the kudos they receive from this group. They usually will not give the critical assessment that will help you attain Speechmastery.

Consider an example of public speaking to this group and really connecting to them.

Imagine a speaker stopping, shuffling his notes as though he lost something he wanted to say. He then looks down at the floor as if it may have fell. How do you feel? What thoughts would go through your mind? When seeing this happen to a speaker, my heart sunk. Then the speaker reaching into his pocket pulled out a piece of paper with this ah-ha look on his face. He proceeded to explain he was demonstrating the quality of empathy. It was an exceptional illustration. Unfortunately, he was only speaking to part of the audience.

He was speaking to those who would be concerned with his plight. Others may have been thinking he should have been better prepared.

The Amiable may look concerned and even worried if someone is ignored, or smile to encourage you the speaker or even others.


This listener likes to be involved and be a part of what is going on. The expressive likes involvement. This listener will become easily bored with technical data. They will be come fidgety or a class clown. The research found they will often be intuitive.

Those with this listening style will really appreciate audience participation. The most basic way to involve an audience in public speaking is to ask for a show of hands with a question you know will have many responses. If you can and do, this will enable you to connect to those with this listening style.

Reach All In Your Audience

To reach all four audiences and hold their attention when public speaking requires balancing many elements of speaking. They need enough data to please the analytical listener without boring the expressive. The program needs to move along for the goal oriented driver. Openness, comfort and empathy are needed to satisfy the amiable personality.

Many public speaking books will say all audiences are basically the same. You will find in your experience and based on this science, on at least a few levels this is not true.

Learn to reach out to each of the several types of listening when your public speaking. Learn to meet the demands of each individual listening style. If you master putting all four listening styles together to best serve your audience, you will not only attain Speechmastery, you will gain power over your audience.

The Art of Listening takes this subject to a deeper level of understanding. Do you know how to improve your listening? Understanding this will help you better speak to the listening style and understanding of your audience. Home: The Listening Style Resource

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Lets Connect View Jonathan Steele RN Holistic Nurse's profile on LinkedIn
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