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Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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3.2 Do we always need to be active listeners?

Described image
Figure 3 Four levels of listening

The next activity is about the way we listen in different situations, and you can see how the different ‘levels’ of listening work for us each time.

Activity 9

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think about these different ‘levels’ of listening, and about the situations which might call for different levels.


There is room for all types of listening in our lives.

We use cosmetic listening when we are ‘passing the time of day’, chatting at the bus stop or waiting in a queue. It is for times when what the other person is saying doesn’t really matter and you don’t need to act on what they are telling you.

Conversational listening is when you know you have to respond to the other person and think a bit about what they are saying. You might be chatting to a colleague at work or to friends and family about what you will watch on TV or where you are going at the weekend.

You may have used active listening in discussions about the care of the people you support. The listener uses gestures or facial expressions, sometimes asking questions or repeating back what the speaker has said for clarification. Often the listener is thinking about what response is required.

Deep listening is for conversations that need recording or are really important; for example, if a person is talking about an abusive situation in their life. At times like this you are paying such close attention that you don’t really think about anything other than what the person is saying to you.