Growing up, we are constantly encouraged to expand our vocabulary. We look up words we don’t know and practice implementing them in our everyday jargon. For me, it’s fun. It feels exciting to have more “tools” to use when participating in conversation or debate with someone.

I must admit, I often forget that language is only half of communication. But somehow, it’s the only one we seem to talk about. Like vocabulary, when was the last time you sat down to learn a new way of listening?

After some internet deep-diving, I learned that there are actually twenty-seven different types of listening. We’ve got things like “high-intensity listening”, “biased listening”, “empathetic listening”....the list goes on. Like vocabulary, learning these listening types comes with research, comprehension, and testing, before it can feel like a natural addition to our toolbox of communication. And it takes practice.

Akeela Marin, who not only is a Senior Consultant and EXPLO faculty member, but is also ranked third in the entire world for public speaking, connected with Adam and me about debate and its ability to teach effective listening skills.


When engaging in conversation, we should think about what our desired goals are — whether that’s being a support for your child, having a successful meeting, or, like Akeela, coming third in a world-wide public speaking tournament — as each requires a different type of listening. To Akeela, the most important outcome that active listening offers is its ability to respect each other, and maybe one we should take note of in this current political climate. 



Here are some really interesting (and some just fun) links that we have been recently indulging in to learn more about the art of listening.

EXPLO-Blog-ActiveListening-Bullet- These acoustic listening devices were developed for the Dutch army as part of air defense systems research between World Wars 1 and 2.

- According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson (and the rest of the internet) listening to this song resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety. Keeping this on loop until spring.

- Developing  better listening skills may establish flow rather than closed mindedness, negative emotions include stress, anger and frustration.

- Sometimes, the most powerful person in your future is randomly sitting next to you at an event, behind you in the grocery store or your GrubHub delivery driver. VP of Marketing at Virgin America says he is so glad he listened to his cabin-mate on a plane.

- Recommended by EXPLO Studio’s Director of Teaching & Learning, Paloma Herman, is a book on the importance of individuals coming together — and how we might be better at it. The Art of Gathering.

- Psychological safety can increase productivity within teams, companies, and yes even between parents and children. Here’s how the Quiet Leadership Institute creates an environment where everyone can speak up.



At EXPLO, the art of listening takes on many forms, exercises, and events. Just a few EXPLO experiences that encourage students to practice listening critically include:

  • Course: Learn how to frame issues, analyze the quality of evidence, recognize fallacies, and construct rebuttals in Debate (grades 10-12)

  • Course: From King Arthur’s Court to Panem’s District 13, practice governing with clear communication and deliberation during periods of crisis in Time Travel Challenge (grades 4-7)

  • Weekend Trip: Concede to leaving your home team's jersey behind and find yourself cheering on an MLB classic at a New York Yankees Baseball Game (grades 10-12)
  • Course: You won't know what the marketing trends are unless you start listening to the consumer. In Business Management + Consulting, save an ailing business from going under by keeping your ear to the ground on what's "in" these days. (grades 10-12)

  • Activity: Engage in deep discussion with your peers about the current political climate, the most influential books of our time, or what one should do during a robot invasion (grades 8+9)
  • Weekend Trip: At the Natural History Museumfind yourself listening to history through the perspective of a 200,000-year-old Neanderthal, or a present-day archeologist (grades 4-7, 8+9, 10-12)



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