Listening Competence

Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I have a thing for listening. I believe good listening is fundamental to good qualitative work.

The January-April 2012 edition of The International Journal of Listening includes research on the validation of the Ford, Wolvin, Chung Listening Competence Scale (Mickelson, W.T and Welch, S.A., pp. 29-39). The research was inconclusive but the authors said that there was a  “well-established theory and logic behind the dimensions of the Listening Competence Scale.”

That’s good enough for me. I found the Scale valuable in assessing my own listening skills (or lack thereof) and in identifying specific areas that I need to sharpen. I include it here in its near entirety. I left out one of the six dimensions—Therapeutic Listening—because I didn’t think it applied to qualitative work. The other five dimensions are highly applicable though.

The tool is simple and requires just a few minutes to take. Give it a try and see how you fare. Each item is scored on a 5-point Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) with a midpoint of 3 (neutral).

Discriminative Listening

I can easily identify someone’s feelings when s/he is speaking to me.
I recognize when someone is not telling the truth.
I can correctly interpret someone’s facial expression.
I can recognize when someone is withholding information from me.

Critical Listening

I express opinions that differ from what others express.
I critically evaluate the content of information that is presented to me.
I carefully assess information as it is being shared with me.
I give feedback to others to let them know what I think of their message.

Comprehensive Listening

I ask follow-up questions until I fully understand someone.
I correctly recall information a few minutes after I hear it.
I ask for additional information or explanation as needed.
I pay close attention to make sure I understand what is being communicated.

Appreciative Listening

I appreciate hearing another’s point of view.
I enjoy listening to others.
I listen with an open mind to what others have to say.
I appreciate what others have to say.

Attending Behaviors

I maintain eye contact with someone while s/he is speaking.
I give someone my complete attention when s/he is speaking.
I maintain an attentive posture while someone is speaking.
I respond nonverbally to let someone know I am listening.

What other dimensions or items would you add?

Thank you for reading my blog. Just enter your email address below to become a subscriber. It’s free and you’ll receive a notice every time I post.

1 Comment

  1. Kate Golden
    Kate GoldenMarch 18,12

    Hi Susan, Thanks so much for posting this, listening is so critical to qualitative work – this looks like a great reminder of the importance of being self-reflective in our own practice. I work for the American Evaluation Association ( and I’d love to share the reference as I think it may be a value to our community members who are always looking for ways to grow. Thanks!

Leave a Reply