originally posted on “Connected Principals”

As leaders, whether we are administrators, teachers, coaches, parents or students, a skill that is often lost is listening.  Too many times we think we need to provide answers or solutions when all we really need to do is listen.

Have you ever been in a conversation and not known what the second half of the dialogue has been because all you were thinking about was what you ‘needed’ to say?

Have you ever been in a meeting and been interrupted before you completed your thought?

Have you ever drifted during a conversation and began to think about something completely different?

Do you know someone that flips the conversation to stories about him/herself all the time? Does he/she ‘one-up’ you? (“That’s nothing, this one time…”)

One of my goals for the past 2 years is to become an active listener – to be there in the moment – during conversations with my wife, family, colleagues, students, and staff members.  What does this mean?  What does this look like?

  1. If you are truly listening, you are not thinking about what YOU are going to say, you are thinking about what the speaker is saying.
  2. In an effective conversation the thinking moves deeper.  Ask questions built upon what has been stated by the speaker.
  3. Pausing is good.  Before you respond, pause and reflect on what has been said, then think before speaking.  I have been working on this skill by observing many of our First Nation leaders (including our FN Support Workers in our school)- conversations need not be rushed.
  4. The most piece of a conversation is not what is said, but what is heard.  Make sure you truly understand what the speaker is stating.
  5. Listen with your eyes.
A little girl came home from school with a drawing she’d made in class.  She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner.
“Mom, guess what?” she squealed, waving the drawing.
Her mom never looked up.
“What?” she said, tending to the pots.
“Guess what?” the child repeated, waving the drawing.
“What?” the mother said, tending to the plates.
“Mom, you’re not listening.”
“Sweetie, yes I am.”
“Mom,” the child said, “you’re not listening with your eyes.
Mitch Albom

As educators we need to be active listeners to many different speakers: students, staff, administrators, parents, and community members.  Most often, when engaged in conversation, we do not need to know the answers or jump to a solution or a story about us – we just need to be there, in that moment, and listen with our eyes.