What is your preferred style of listening?

Barker and Watson have done extensive research and produced good materials to assess your listening style and to help you enhance your listening abilities. One of the many tools they provide is this self-evaluation to help you determine what listening style you have.  This assessment is taken from their book, Listen Up.  You can take it here or download the  Listener Preference Profile.



Think of a specific listening role or situation that you are often in. For example, you may focus on your listening at work, as a friend, as a spouse, or as a parent. As you read the series of statements below, keep the particular listening role or situation you have chosen in mind. Circle the appropriate number on your answer sheet using the key below.

Always 5
Frequently 4
Sometimes 3
Infrequently 2
Never 1

1. I focus my attention on other people’s feelings when listening to them.

5 4 3 2 1

2. When listening to others, I quickly notice if they are pleased or disappointed.

5 4 3 2 1

3. I become involved when listening to the problems of others.

5 4 3 2 1

4. I try to find common areas of interest when listening to new acquaintances.

5 4 3 2 1

5. I nod my head and/or use eye contact to show interest in what others are saying.

5 4 3 2 1

6. I am frustrated when others don’t present their ideas in an orderly, efficient way.

5 4 3 2 1

7. When listening to others, I focus on any inconsistencies and/or errors in what’s being said.

5 4 3 2 1

8. I jump ahead and/or finish thoughts of speakers.

5 4 3 2 1

9. I am impatient with people who ramble on during conversations.

5 4 3 2 1

10. I ask questions to help speakers get to the point more quickly.

5 4 3 2 1

11. I wait until all the facts are presented before forming judgments and opinions.

5 4 3 2 1

12. I prefer to listen to technical information.

5 4 3 2 1

13. I prefer to hear facts and evidence so I can personally evaluate them.

5 4 3 2 1

14. I like the challenge of listening to complex information.

5 4 3 2 1

15. I ask questions to probe for additional information.

5 4 3 2 1

16. When hurried, I let others know that I have a limited amount of time to listen.

5 4 3 2 1

17. I begin a discussion by telling others how long I have to meet.

5 4 3 2 1

18. I interrupt others when I feel time pressure.

5 4 3 2 1

19. I look at my watch or clocks in the room when I have limited time to listen to others.

5 4 3 2 1

20. When I fell time pressure, my ability to concentrate on what others are saying suffers.

5 4 3 2 1


Now, score your answers accordingly:

Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 1-5  =

Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 6-10 =

Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 11-15 =

Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 16-20 =


What do these scores mean?

Score Interpretation

The highest number you scored for each area indicates the likelihood that this area is your listening strength. It is possible you could score equally in each area.

Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 1-5 (people-oriented) =


Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 6-10 (action-oriented) =


Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 11-15 (content-oriented) =


Tally the number of times you circled 4 or 5 for statements 16-20 (time-oriented) =




• cares and is concerned about others
• is nonjudgmental
• provides clear and verbal and nonverbal feedback signals
• identifies emotional states of others
• interested in building relationships
• notices moods in others quickly

• becomes over involved with the feelings of other
• avoids seeing faults in others
• internalizes/adopts emotional states of others
• is intrusive to others
• is overly expressive when giving feedback
• is nondiscriminating in building relationships



• gets to the heart of the matter quickly
• gives clear feedback concerning expectations
• concentrates energy on understanding task at hand
• helps others focus on what is important
• encourages others to be organized and concise
• identifies inconsistencies in messages

• tends to be impatient with rambling speakers
• jumps ahead and moves to conclusions quickly
• gets distracted easily by unorganized speakers
• asks blunt questions of others
• appears overly critical
• minimizes emotional issues and concerns


• values technical information
• tests for clarity and understanding
• encourages others to provide support for their ideas
• welcomes complex and challenging information
• looks at all sides of an issue

• is overly detail-oriented
• may intimidate others by asking pointed questions
• minimizes the value of nontechnical information
• devalues information from unknown individuals
• takes a long time to make decisions


• manages and saves time effectively
• lets others know listening time requirements
• sets time guidelines for meetings and conversations
• discourages wordy speakers from wasting time
• gives cues to others when time is being wasted

• tends to be impatient with time wasters
• interrupts others, putting a strain on relationships
• lets time affect the ability to concentrate
• rushes speakers by frequently looking at watches/clocks
• limits creativity in others by imposing time pressure

Note: (see page 32 in Listen Up)
About 20 percent of us indicate little or no listening preferences on the Listener Preference Profile. If you scored zero in all of the categories, you may prefer not to gain information through listening, in certain environments and contexts. The lack of any listening preference is termed “listening avoidance.” This is not necessarily a negative trait but can cause problems in extreme cases. Two of the most common causes of listening avoidance are introversion and burnout.


Did you learn anything new about yourself?  How are you going to apply this knowledge to become more effective in your interpersonal relationships? Contact me if you would like to discuss this or find ways to more effectively listen.

~ Don Owsley