So I stumbled upon this book over the summer while I was teaching a class in Prague, and it really got me thinking about (and reflecting on) how important the skill of active listening can be to effective communication. It sounds funny and ridiculously obvious to even say that listening is a key component to communicating well but honestly, listening, really listening, is much harder than you think. Most of us are guilty of talking too much and not truly listening to what others are trying to say, and it gets in the way of effective communication all the time. We get so eager to be heard, and to be a part of the conversation, that we simply can’t wait for the other person to finish speaking so we can get our thoughts out there. Most times we start formulating our thoughts and responses in our own minds while the other person is talking, and keeps us from really hearing what they are trying to say. I’ve been guilty of this lots of times, but I’ve been trying very hard of late to make active listening my top priority when having conversations…but you know what, it’s hard to do.
I’ve spent the first few weeks of school watching how people communicate with each other and it’s super interesting. What I’ve noticed is that we love the sound of our own voices, and that most conversations are driven by a person’s desire to speak as opposed to listen. We interrupt each other all the time, we repeat what we’ve said multiple times, and we don’t stop to process what it is that a person is trying to say…all of this stops us from really “hearing” people, and it fosters way too much miscommunication, it promotes inefficiencies, and it causes a lot of frustration. The thing about active listening is that it’s something that we can all get better at with some practice, and there are a few easy steps that we can all try to get us started. Take a look at the many resource links below and familiarize yourself with some of the strategies. I’m sure most of you already know all about active listening but here’s the thing…it’s one thing to know all about the steps of effective communication, and a very different thing to actually do it in your day to day practice.
The other part to this, which might just be the most important part for us as educators, is how we communicate with our students. After my weekly learning walk last week I asked you all to reflect on how much time you spend talking in front of your kids, because if you really stop and think about it, I bet it’s too much. When I was in the classroom as an elementary school teacher I talked way too much…I loved the sound of my own voice and I took a lot of pride in myself being an entertainer. Thinking back, I wonder how much time I took away from the students’ opportunities to question, to ponder, to struggle and to voice their own opinions. It’s tricky being a teacher because we often see ourselves as the keepers of the knowledge, and the sages who will impart all of this information to our kids, but ultimately that’s a trap and not the most effective way for kids to learn.
Okay, that’s enough talking from me so I’ll wrap this up. As a final word I’m asking us all this week to reflect on ourselves as communicators, and to watch how we engage in our conversations. Let’s ask ourselves these questions…are we talking too much, are we interrupting others, are we getting distracted, and are we really trying our best to listen to others? My bet is that with a little effort and some personal recognition we can all get better at communication, and ultimately, we’ll all get a little closer to finally being heard. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to a true conversation
– Chinese Proverb
Inspiring Videos –
Related Articles –
Active Listening Resources –
TED Talks and Related Videos –
Teacher Talk Time (John Hattie)
People talk Too much (Ellen…funny)