1. In meetings, briefings and lectures, we listen to learn facts. We focus on building an internal map of the incoming information.

    Feelings don't come into this much. A policeman questioning witnesses would be more focused on the facts. Where, when, who, what and how.

  2. In relationship building, conflict resolution, support and social situations, we listen to "be" with others. We focus on what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.

    Actual facts and detail matter less, to the point where otherwise important details - where they are incidental to understanding the emotional state of the speaker - are often forgotten soon after the conversation.

    A therapist would focus on what it was like to be in a particular situation. What were the feelings. The internal dialog. Even sometimes the physical sensations.

    It can be somewhat counterintuitive to listen to someone intently, but not remember much of the details afterwards!

Thinking about active listening this way helps me to be more aware of how I listen. And with awareness comes a greater ability to consciously switch between these modes as required.

When problem-solving (in just about any context?) a mixture of these modes is needed.

Listen for facts to understand a situations: What is going on? What has happened? What may happen? Who are involved? How?

Listen with empathy to de-fuse emotional stress: What's this like for you? How do you feel? What What would help you be more effective right now to deal with the situation?

Does thinking about listening this way help you?