Metacognition and Listening to our Listening

In a previous post I mentioned the word “Metacognition.” Here comes the word nerd in me, again. The word comes from the Greek prefix μετά meaning “after,” “beside,” “with,” or “among” and the Latin cognoscere which means “get to know.” It’s use has grown over the last half century in the fields of psychology and education. It means

“. . . put simply, thinking about one’s thinking. More precisely, it refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance. Metacognition includes a critical awareness of a) one’s thinking and learning and b) oneself as a thinker and learner.” 1

Many have come to use a similar term in the study of listening, meta-listening. We could say, “Listening to our listening.” In the post about “Barriers to Good Listening,” I wrote about “Bonus Brain Time.” That’s the time created by the difference between the speed of speech and the speed of thought. It is within that time that the difference is made between not listening and super-power listening.

Try an exercise. This is the “planning” phase from the definition above. During your next conversation, practice being aware of how you are listening. This is the monitoring phase. Pay attention to your own posture and attention. Are you giving eye contact? Are you listening to what is being said or are you planning what you will say next? Then pay attention to the person talking. What words are they using? What are their body language and facial expressions saying to you?

After the conversation is over, make some notes. This is the assessment phase from the metacognition definition. How did you do? What did you learn about the person who was talking? Even more, what did you learn about your listening? Yourself as a listener? Practice that same process over and over. It will be very useful as you develop your listening skills.

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1 “Metacognition,” by Nancy Chick, Center for Learning online article at cft.vanderbilt.edu.

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