Explore Framework
News & Research
About
Contact

Listening

The receiving, retaining and processing of information or ideas
This skill is all about being able to effectively receive information - whether it comes from customers, colleagues or stakeholders.

Initially, the skill steps concentrate on being able to listen effectively to others - including remembering short instructions, understanding why others are communication and recording important information.

Individuals then focus on how they demonstrate that they are listening effectively, thinking about body language, open questioning and summarising and rephrasing.

Beyond that, the focus is on being aware of how they might be being influenced by a speaker, through tone and language.

The final steps are about critical listening - comparing perspectives, identifying biases, evaluating ideas and being objective.

Speaking

The oral transmission of information or ideas
This skill is all about how to communicate effectively with others, being mindful of whether they are talking to customers, colleagues or other stakeholders and in different settings.

Initially, this skill focuses on being able to speak clearly - first with well known individuals and small groups and then with those who are not known.

The next stage is about being an effective speaker by making points logically, by thinking about what listeners already know and using appropriate language, tone and gesture.

Beyond that, individuals focus on speaking engagingly through use of facts and examples, visual aids, and their expression and gesture.

Beyond that stage, speakers will be adaptive to the response of their listeners and ready for different scenarios. The final steps focus on speaking influentially - using structure, examples, facts and vision to persuade listeners.

Problem Solving

The ability to find a solution to a situation or challenge
This skill focuses on how to solve problems, recognising that while part of Problem Solving is technical know-how and experience, there are also transferable tools that individuals can develop and use.

The first steps focus on being able to follow instructions to complete tasks, seeking help and extra information if needed. The next stage focuses on being able to explore problems by creating and assessing different potential solutions. This includes more complex problems, without a simple technical solution.

Beyond this, the focus is on exploring complex solutions - thinking about causes and effects, generating options, and evaluating those options. This extends into analysis using logical reasoning and hypotheses.

Finally, individuals implement strategic plans to solve complex problems, assess their success, and draw out learning for the future.

Creativity

The use of imagination and the generation of new ideas
Creativity is the complement to Problem Solving, and is about generating innovations or ideas which can then be honed through the problem-solving process.

The first few steps focus on the individual's confidence in imagining different situations and sharing their ideas.

The focus is then on generating ideas - using a clear brief, making improvements to something that already exists and combining concepts.

Individuals then apply creativity in the context of their work and their wider life. They can build off this to develop ideas using tools like mind mapping, questioning, and considering different perspectives.

The most advanced steps focus on building effective innovation in group settings and by seeking out varied experiences and stimuli. Finally, individuals support others to innovate, by sharing tools, identifying the right tools for the situation and through coaching.

Staying Positive

The ability to use tactics and strategies to overcome setbacks and achieve goals
This skill is all about individuals being equipped to manage their emotions effectively and being able to remain motivated, and ultimately to motivate others, even when facing setbacks.

The early steps focus on identifying emotions - particularly feeling positive or negative. Building off that is the ability to keep trying - and then staying calm, thinking about what went wrong, and trying to cheer up and encourage others.

The focus then turns to identifying new opportunities in difficult situations, sharing those, and adapting or creating plans accordingly. At more advanced steps, individuals identify and manage risks and gains in opportunities.

Finally, individuals support others to stay positive by managing their own response, helping others to see opportunities and creating plans to achieve them.

Aiming High

The ability to set clear, tangible goals and devise a robust route to achieving them
This skill is about being able to plan effectively - both to achieve organisational goals, and also to set their own personal development targets. Initially, this is about knowing when something is too difficult, and having a sense of what doing well looks like for an individual.

The focus is then about working with care and attention, taking pride in success and having a positive approach to new challenges. Building on this, individuals set goals for themselves, informed by an understanding of what is needed, and then be able to order and prioritise tasks, secure resources and involve others effectively.

At the higher steps, the focus is creating plans informed by an individual's skill set, with clear targets, and building on external views. At the most advanced level, individuals develop long-term strategies. These are informed by an assessment of internal and external factors, structured through regular milestones and feedback loops.

Leadership

Supporting, encouraging and developing others to achieve a shared goal
This skill is relevant not only for individuals in positions of management with formal power, but also for individuals working with peers in teams.

At the earliest stages, the focus is on basic empathy - understanding their own feelings, being able to share them, and recognising the feelings of others. The focus is on managing - dividing up tasks, managing time and sharing resources, managing group discussions and dealing with disagreements.

Beyond that, individuals build their awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their teams. This allows them to allocate tasks effectively. They then build techniques to mentor, coach and motivate others. At the highest steps, individuals will be able to reflect on their own leadership style and understand its effect on others.

Ultimately, they should be able to build on their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses, and adapt their leadership style to the situation.

Teamwork

Working cooperatively with others towards achieving a shared goal
This skill applies to working within both formal and informal teams, and also with customers, clients or other stakeholders. Initially, this is about individuals fulfilling expectations around being positive, behaving appropriately, being timely and reliable and taking responsibility. This extends to understanding and respecting diversity of others' cultures, beliefs and backgrounds.

The next steps focus on making a contribution to a team through group decision making recognising the value of others' ideas and encourage others to contribute too.Beyond that, individuals improve their teams through managing conflict and building relationships beyond the immediate team. At the top steps, individuals focus on how they influence their team through suggesting improvements and learning lessons from setbacks.

Ultimately, individuals support the team by evaluating others strengths and weaknesses and bringing in external expertise and relationships.

To achieve step 10, individuals will focus on how differences in the language that the speaker uses will influence the meaning of what they are saying, and identify some common elements and how to interpret them.  

In the previous step, individuals explored how a speaker can influence through their tone and how to infer additional meaning from that tone. This step builds on this by focusing on the language that the speaker uses.

Building blocks

The building blocks of this step are learning how to:

  • Identify language features that create different emotional responses 
  • Identify how language tools can influence the listener

Reflection questions

  • How can changes in language affect how you feel about something? 
  • Can you give some examples? 
  • Why is it important to be aware of how language can influence our emotions? 
  • What are some of the other ways that a listener can be influenced by what as speaker says?
  • What have you experienced as the impact on you?

What you need to know

How a speaker's emotion can affect our response

As listeners, we are influenced by the tone with which someone speaks to us, but we are also emotionally influenced by the language that a speaker uses. 

It is important to be aware of how a speaker’s language can influence our emotions so that we can consider whether we want our emotions influenced in that way. If we are not aware then we can be easily manipulated by a speaker. 

If we are focused on listening to something, then we can often start to mirror the emotions that we are hearing. For example:

  • If a speaker starts talking about being excited, then we start to feel excited too
  • If a speaker talks about being anxious, nervous or uncertain then we start to take on that emotion too
-

Different emotional responses

There are a wide range of emotions that one might feel at any time, based on what you are hearing. For example:

  • Joy
  • Fear 
  • Surprise
  • Disappointment
  • Trust
  • Anger 
  • Anticipation 
  • Disgust
  • Boredom
-

Avoiding becoming overwhelmed

What is important is to avoid being overwhelmed by the emotional reaction that you might have to what is being said. While it is helpful to be able to identify the emotional response that a speaker wants you to have, it is also important that this is balanced by being able to objectively think about the content of what is being said and to remain able to critically engage with what the speaker is saying – and whether you agree with it.

-

Language tools that can influence a listener

There are other language tools that a speaker can use to influence a listener.

While it is important to listen carefully, it is also important to be able to identify what is influencing you as a listener so that you can be in control of your reaction. In Step 4, we explored some of the purposes that a speaker might have when they are communicating with you as their listener. Each of these has associated language tools that a speaker might use:

Purpose

Language tools they might use 

To share information

  • Facts
  • Statistics 

To share an opinion or view

  • Assertions of truth – “It is well known that…” 
  • Selective statistics and facts 

To express their feelings 

  • Emotive language
  • Hyperbole and exaggeration 

To request something that they need

  • Emotive language 
  • Compliments 

To learn about others and build relationships

  • Humour
  • Self-deprecation 
  • Queries 

To give instructions

  • Direct instruction 

To encourage others

  • Flattery
  • Compliments 
  • Self-deprecation – for example, that they could never have done that.


It is particularly important when a speaker is requesting something, encouraging, or sharing an opinion to be mindful that they are likely to be selective in the language that they are using. They might be trying to influence and change your mind on something, or encouraging you to take some action which might not be correct or in your own best interests.

-

Advice for

Individuals

Why this skill step matters in education

In education, there are many opportunities to hear from speakers such as subject talks, presentations from local employers or businesses and assemblies. The language that is chosen when delivering these speeches is significant in helping us comprehend the response the speaker is trying to achieve in the listeners. In order for us to understand what is being said and make informed choices, we must be able to identify the tools being used to influence our opinion. For example, if the speaker uses emotive language to describe a job, they might be describing how it makes them feel as opposed to sharing the specifics about what the job entails. By being able to effectively understand how language can influence us as listeners, we can be more critical in our approach to a subject or idea.  

Why this skill step matters in the workplace

In the workplace, we often listen to presentations, pitches or talks that aim to persuade or convince us of something. This is particularly the case when listening to your manager, a member of a sales team or a potential new client. If a new idea or product is being shared with us, it’s important that we can determine what the facts are and what are opinions. This can help us to remain objective in deciding whether it is useful or beneficial for the wider company.

Why this skill step matters in wider life

When speaking with others in our wider lives, it’s important to recognise their use of language. When speaking with friends who are excited to share a new idea, it can be easy to get swept up in their emotions without critically considering what is being said. We might also be looking to try something new such as ice-skating or rock climbing. If someone uses negative language to describe their own experience of it, we may be reluctant to try something new that we might enjoy. In order for us to make decisions that are best for us, we must remain objective. By recognising when a speaker is using different language tools, we can pick out the information that will help us to make the best decision.

How to practise this skill step

To best practise this step of Listening, apply what you have learnt to a real-life situation. Choose one or more of the activities below, remind yourself of the key points and strategies in the step, and have a go!

  • If you are in school or college, listen very carefully to one of your teachers or lecturers in a specific lesson. During the lesson, identify any changes in their language, tone or expression. Can you recognise why the teacher made the change? Can you observe anything in the response or reaction of the listeners that suggested the change was necessary?
  • Observe a presentation – this might be through a TED talk, training in the workplace or an online clip. What language tools can you identify? What influence might this have on the listeners?
  • Imagine you are going to give a short presentation at school, college, or work on a topic of your choice. Choose a purpose you would like to focus on for your imagined talk, for example to request something or to encourage others. What language or language tools would you use to do this? Write out what you would say.

Build this step

Advice for

Educators

Teaching It

To teach this step:

  • Firstly, the teacher should ensure that learners understand why a speaker might want to influence them through their use of language.
  • Secondly, learners should understand that language can influence by encouraging a particular emotional response, or through selective provision of information to back up a particular idea.
  • They can then look at this by modelling what it looks like to try to influence someone. These modelled examples can come from a teacher in the first instance, but then learners could also create their own.

Reinforcing it

This step can be reinforced in the classroom:

  • For example, the teacher can encourage learners to identify emotional language in what they hear or read, and to reflect on how that is trying to affect their emotions.
  • Learners can also be encouraged to take a critical view of some of the other language tools they might come across (for example, hyperbole or exaggeration, selective use of facts and statistics or compliments) and to appreciate how that might influence them as a listener.

Assessing it 

This step is can be assessed through observation or a carefully designed activity For example:

  • Learners could listen to a couple of speeches or pitches (including video is fine for this step) and try to identify where the speaker is looking to influence an emotional response from the listeners.
  • They can also look to identify where language tools are being used to influence.

Build this step

Advice for

Employers

Build it at work: 

This step is relevant to all people who communicate with others in their work. It will be particularly relevant to those who are involved in conversations where one party is trying to influence another. 

To build this step in the work environment, managers could:

  • Explain to an individual how to identify language features used to elicit an emotional response. A manager might give example of this based on what their interaction to make it concrete. For example: ‘I can tell you want me to take your opinion seriously because when you spoke to me about choosing this supplier, you quoted some facts and statistics which support your view’. 
  • Model some of the techniques often used to influence so that the individual can see them in action and might therefore easily recognise them in future. Here the manager might demonstrate a mismatch a language tool and the purpose it typically supports. For example, the manager might attempt to use facts and statistics to support build a relationship with others. This exaggeration might make help an individual to identify when including facts and statistics might actually be useful.
  • Set an exercise for an individual to shadow a member of staff involved in trading or selling company goods, so they might see language used to influence in action. 
  • Reflect with the individual about how aware they are of being influenced by the language someone uses

Practising it:

There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:

  • Working with colleagues: When colleagues are trying to convince you to do something, and using an array of language techniques to try to persuade you.
  • Working with customers or clients: When interacting with customers or clients to understand their views, take their feedback or process their requests. 

Reviewing it:

For those already employed, this step is can be assessed by questioning the individual. For instance:

  • A manager might ask an individual some of the sample reflection questions above, such as ‘how can changes in language affect how you feel about something?’ to check how aware the individual is of their being influenced by language. 
  • Alternatively, a manager might ask an individual to cite an example of how language has been used to influence them. 

Spotting it in recruitment: 

During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:

  • Observing an individual during an exercise to simulate an interaction between a client and an employee. During this exercise, the individual could be tasked to identify when the speaker uses language to elicit an emotional response from the listener or where it is being used to promote an idea – such as using selective facts to suggest they have the best product on the market, for example.

Build this step

Advice for

Organisations

We work with a wide range of organisations, who use the Skills Builder approach in lots of different settings – from youth clubs, to STEM organisations, to careers and employability providers.

We have a lot of materials available to support you to use the Skills Builder Universal Framework with the individuals you work with, including:

  • Tools for self-reflection
  • Materials to support you to teach the skills, if appropriate in your setting
  • Reward systems like printable certificates

We also do a lot of work with organisations who join the Skills Builder Partnership to build the Universal Framework into their work and impact measurement systems. You can find out a lot more using the links below.

More resources

Advice for

Parents & Carers

As a parent or carer, you might be thinking about how best to support your children to build their essential skills. The good news is that there is lots that you can do that will have a big impact, including:

  • Talking about how you use these skill steps in your own life
  • Trying to show how to use the skill steps, and explaining why you are doing what you are doing
  • Praising your children when they show they are using the skills well, and help them to see that as a worthwhile achievement

We’ve developed a whole series of tools and resources to help parents to build these skills, including:

  • Skill stories for the youngest children (aged 3+)
  • Short activities that you can complete together
  • Regular challenges that you can complete at home to build the essential skills
  • Reward systems like printable certificates and badges

There is also content for older children and young people, including short activities and reflections that they can complete alone, or with you.

Build this step