Agile Listeners choose the listening skill that fits the situation and their purpose. The statement, “Listening is a skill,” is half true. Better stated, “Listening is a number of skills.” They can be learned, practiced, and mastered.
Give yourself credit. You have listening skills, some sharper than others, some easier and more rewarding. For example, listening to your favorite music or comedy is relaxing and entertaining. Listening to a weather report or podcast provides information to satisfy an interest. Taking a course for credit or fun involves listening to instructions in order to understand the material. A presentation of potential solutions to a problem emphasizes critical or evaluative listening skills. Finally, having a conversation with someone who recently experienced a hardship or loss calls for listening that conveys empathy—making the person feel safe, accepted, and not judged.
According to neuroscience studies, each of these five skills involves different parts of the brain, and each skill can be mastered:
- 1. Listening for enjoyment, entertainment, appreciation
- 2. Listening for information
- 3. Listening for comprehension
- 4. Listening critically
- 5. Empathic listening
Agile Listeners recognize changing situations and adapt the appropriate listening skills to the situation. Becoming an Agile Listener is within the reach of anyone who is willing to do the work. Practice the five types of listening skills until they feel natural.