Analytical Listening

Analytical listening - toolshero

This article describes the concept of Analytical Listening in a practical way. After reading you will understand the definition and basics of this powerful listening skill.

What is Analytical Listening?

Analytical Listening is about the ability and the capacity to properly analyse what is being said. This not only means understanding what the other person is saying and what they mean to say, but also being able to divide difficult questions into separate parts in order to get to the core. Analytical Listening sounds easier than it is. Distinguishing between central and peripheral issues is a prerequisite. Apart from that, common listening techniques help. The objective of Analytical Listening is to quickly see logical connections, as well as detecting possible gaps in all the information.

LSD technique

The LSD technique is definitely useful when it comes to Analytical Listening. It stands for Listening, Summarising and Dig deeper. Listening is actually hearing what the other is saying. This means full concentration on the other’s story is needed, as well as a thorough sinking in of the information. Briefly summarising what the other is saying is usually enough to get to the core. Moreover, it causes the other to feel like they are being heard and able to offer additions if the summary is (not) yet complete. By giving a short summary, the listener gives themselves time to let the information sink in and understand what they just heard. This is followed by digging deeper to get down to the core.

Audio Productions

Analytical Listening is originally a way of listening to audio productions, where the meaning of the sounds is interpreted correctly by the listener. It is often used by professionals working on audio productions. The Analytical Listening is actively engaged with the music they are listening to; each element of a piece of music is analysed in order to understand the intentions of the composer and/or lyricist. During Analytical Listening, the listener looks for the deeper meaning of what is heard. Sound itself has no meaning; it’s about the underlying layer. When someone says something, it’s not just about the contents. It’s especially the way they say it that gives meaning to the words. This intonation also applies in music. The underlying emotional implications of a musical performance indicate the composer’s meaning and intentions. Music is more than simply a mix of sounds. The composer and/ or lyricist is always trying to convey a meaning or emotion, such as happiness, sadness, anger, or love. Thus, music can be made about an endless array of subjects and emotions. This means there are many details for the listener to find. It’s about finding out the message behind the message.

Analytical capacity

Analytical ability is very useful in many other occupations as well, however. Think of leadership roles, technical occupations, and the medical world, where it comes down to making many analyses. Listening analytically means looking at differences, possible risks, and the things that make no sense. By analysing these, the cause of the problem becomes clear. Addressing this will make the information clearer for both parties. In some cases, the analytical listener will cause the other to feel annoyed. The other may feel ‘caught’ regarding the fact that they did not provide complete information. By supporting and encouraging them, both parties will find common ground again.

Analytical capacity is a trait that applies to the analytical listener. This analytical ability is a quality that usually goes hand in hand with other abilities one has, such as empathic capacity, inquisitiveness, curiosity, desire to learn, being critical and open-minded. Analytical capacity is a mixture of all these traits and abilities.

Pitfalls of Analytical Listening

Apart from the power of Analytical Listening, there are also a number of pitfalls. For example, those who are strongly analytically minded and capable of good analytical thought tend to think things through too much and hesitate too much before coming up with a final judgment. Because of their analytical capacity, such a person will first go over all the options, weigh them, and closely examine all the pros and cons before making a choice. The indecisiveness this brings may be experienced by their environment as highly annoying.

The previously mentioned danger that the conversation partner will feel attacked is also a potential issue. This is because the analytical listener ask a lot of questions, which can make them seem distrustful towards their conversation partner. Besides deeper questions, the analytical listener will ask many ‘why’ questions, which people will often not be able to answer. The tip is to look for the answers together and not put the other on the spot. That could be felt as a negative confrontation, which stalls the conversation and could make it take a different turn.

Apart from that, the analytical listener is ‘allergic’ to ad hoc solutions that should be implemented in the short term. In some situations, however, they will need to accept these because not doing so would interfere with business operations. To the analytical listener, this will feel like implementing poorly thought out solutions without having made a correct diagnosis. Depending on the situation, the analytical listener may have to learn to accept this.

Analytical Listening & Decision Making

Analytical Listening forms one of the foundations of good decision making. Listening thoroughly and analytically makes it easier to reconstruct a situation and find a solution rationally. This will then lead to optimal decisions. Especially when it comes to decision making, Analytical Listening is a large part of a leadership skill set. Complex problems are more easily understood, meaning a better prediction can be made as to which solution or method would be best. Analytical Listening can therefore contribute to all kinds of business roles that call for good planning and decision making.

Analytical Listening & Problem Solving

Moreover, Analytical Listening helps bring balance to a conversation and process information objectively. In conversation with others, feeling plays an important role. When the atmosphere of the conversation is good, chances are objectivity will disappear into the background. Being mindful of this allows for a balance to be created between feeling and logical reasoning. Analyses of causes can be made, after which the consequences of a problem can be better detected as well. An analytical listener is able to critically look at elements of a problem and apply models to them. By distinguishing main problems from partial problems, the analytic listener can collect a lot of information, then research it. After collecting all of the data, the analytical listener will be highly able to make logical connections, detect the actual cause, and think of fitting solutions.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? What are your experiences with Analytical Listening? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have any more additions? Does Analytical Listening help you to get to the core of the problem or to make decisions more easily?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Bonet, D. (2001). The business of listening a practical guide to effective listening. Crisp Learning.
  2. Gearhart, C. C., Denham, J. P., & Bodie, G. D. (2014). Listening as a goal-directed activity. Western Journal of Communication, 78(5), 668-684.
  3. Thompson, K., Leintz, P., Nevers, B., & Witkowski, S. (2010). The integrative listening model: An approach to teaching and learning listening. Listening and human communication in the 21st century, 266-287.

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Patty Mulder
About the Author

Patty Mulder is an Dutch expert on Management Skills, Personal Effectiveness and Business Communication. She is also a Content writer, Business Coach and Company Trainer and lives in the Netherlands (Europe).
Note: all her articles are written in Dutch and we translated her articles in English!

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