To achieve Step 15, individuals will show that they can listen critically and avoid being influenced by the way speakers speak or act, to be objective in how they evaluate different perspectives.
This step draws together a lot of the various elements in the other steps, including the ability to recognise how speakers try to influence, and being able to evaluate different perspectives.
The building blocks of this step are learning:
In Step 13, we explored some different biases that affect us all. These are cognitive biases and come from mental shortcuts in our brains. These include:
To be effective critical thinkers, we need to be aware of how these biases could affect how we listen. Without being aware of these biases, we cannot be objective in evaluating what we hear on its own merits.
Two other cognitive biases affect how we judge the speakers that we are listening to themselves. These are:
We make judgements of others very quickly – this is the talk of ‘first impressions’ that we often hear, where we make a judgement about whether we see someone as credible very swiftly and then tend not to stray from that original view.
There is also the risk of prejudices. There is a danger that part of the rapid assessments we make are related to easily visible characteristics like age, gender, race, disability and others (see Step 13 for more). We need to be aware and consciously challenge ourselves on whether we have an unconscious bias when it comes to how we listen to speakers.
Once we are aware of our biases means that we can consciously challenge ourselves and then focus on what we are hearing. This means using some of the techniques from Step 11 to develop a mental model of the options and arguments themselves, and using that for evaluation.
In this way, we can focus on the content of the ideas and reasoning rather than being distracted or misled by our biases.
When we listen better, we learn more, think more clearly, and make better decisions.
In education, we interact with many different people on a daily basis. This could include an employer coming in to do a talk, members of the local council visiting the site or external guests presenting on particular issues. When listening to others, we must challenge ourselves around forming initial judgements on someone based on a first impression. We might miss out on interesting or important information being shared if we are not aware of this. If we focus on what is being said as opposed to the way someone presents themselves, for example, we can find clarity in our ideas and make well-informed decisions.
In the workplace, we often listen to presentations, pitches or talks delivered both by people who work internally within the organisation or externally as part of something separate. In order to get the most from other people’s perspectives, it’s important that we remain objective. When we first meet or listen to people, we can often make a snap judgement based on this initial impression. This can be based on our own internal biases. By remaining open-minded about a speaker or presenter, we are able to focus on evaluating the content of their ideas and the reasoning behind them. This can help to inform us of interesting viewpoints we might not have considered before and ultimately benefit the business more widely.
In our wider lives we are exposed to a variety of perspectives from many different types of people. With the rise of social media, we are exposed to more voices and it is important that we approach what is being shared in a critical way. If we are influenced by unconscious bias when listening to a speaker, we might miss out on learning about new perspectives and viewpoints that could be exciting or positively challenge the way we have historically seen something. On the other hand, it can be challenging to listen to perspectives or opinions that are different to our own but they can help us to grow and learn to understand others more comprehensively.
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!
To teach this step:
This step can be regularly reinforced, particularly thinking about how to ensure that learners are aware of biases that they might hold and surfacing them. Some of the fundamentals of critical listening can be extended to critical thinking more broadly.
This step is best assessed through a structured assessment:
This step is relevant to everyone who will use their listening skills to understand issues at work. This will be particularly relevant for those who use this understanding to help others make decisions about what to do next.
To build this step in the work environment, managers could:
There are plenty of opportunities for building this skill in the workplace:
For those already employed, this step is best assessed through questioning over a series of events. For instance:
During the recruitment process, this step could be assessed by:
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:
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.
At home, you can easily support your child to build their essential skills. The good news is that there
are lots of ways that you can have a big impact, including: