Literal Listening Style

Joana just made a remark that it’s so hot today. She didn’t direct it at anyone in particular, just something she said to himself. Or did she? Well, it turns out she was asking for help. She has a Inferential Speaking Style. We’ll cover this in another article. For today’s discussion, take a look at Lee.

Lee hears Joana’s remark but keeps focusing on his typing. And then he’s surprised at her outburst. How come?

Well, it turns out it’s down to Lee’s Listening Style (remember Listening Styles from the last article? Otherwise you can find it HERE/Link). Lee has a Literal Listening Style.

When you have a Literal Listening style, you take what you hear literally. You do not infer that it’s a request or a plea for help. Someone just said something. That’s all.

If you hear someone say “it’s hot today”, and if you agree, you’ll just say “yeah, it is” and carry on with whatever you’re doing. Sometimes you may even just hear that statement and ignore it. Joana said it’s hot today? Well, she’s just expressing her opinion. Move along, nothing to see.

Unlike those with an Inferential Listening Style, people with Literal Listening Style will feel no urge to do anything to help. They just don’t feel the compulsion to act because to them it’s just someone letting out an opinion.

Naturally, if you fall somewhere in between, you’ll have a bit of both tendencies depending on which extreme is more dominant for you.

Remember, like any NLP Meta Programs, whichever end of the Listening Style you’re on is perfectly OK. Neither is better or worse than the other. It’s just a function of our brain’s software.

So now that you are aware of this function in our brain’s software, what can you do with this knowledge? Here are some suggestions:

  1. If you have a very Literal Listening Style, and you hear someone express something like “I’m thirsty” or “It’s noisy in here”, check to see if he or she is actually asking for help.
  2. Be aware that sometimes, people ask for help indirectly and if you don’t respond, they will feel that you don’t care or worse, that you refuse their request. If it’s your boss, he or she may feel you are disobeying orders! That can be bad for your career, naturally.
  3. If your Listening Style is very Literal, understand that it is OK if you don’t feel any urge to help when you hear an off the cuff remark. It’s natural and it’s OK. You can still check if they need help, especially now you that you know about this particular NLP Meta Program.


Ask yourself this question: When you hear someone who is close to you say “It’s so hot today” or “I’m hungry”, do you feel like you have to do something about it? The more you feel like you have to do something, the more dominant is your Inferential Listening Style. Conversely, if it’s the opposite, the more dominant is your Literal Listening Style.

You can ask this question to your friends. Find out their Listening Style. It’s good for team members to know what everyone’s NLP Meta Programs are so they understand each other more and can work better together.

Join us next time to explore yet another NLP Meta Program. Have a cheerful week ahead! 🙂