Listen With Your Eyes

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.

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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. I have read and heard that before… something we all need to be reminded of, especially with our ‘kids’ (including homes and classes)… as well as our friends and ‘significant others’! Too bad there wasn’t a little beep that went off in our heads every time we interrupt others with our own thoughts instead of letting that person be fully heard… something most of us are guilty of doing without realizing it. I like this a lot! You can remind me when I do this and I will appreciate it! 🙂

  2. Another great topic for discussion Chris! I recently read a quote by Bob Samples “Adults spend nearly ninety percent of their time in the interrogative when they are around children – the questions are non-stop.” I just love what he is saying here; not enough time is given for quiet reflection. To honour any question, one hopes that people do not say the first thing that comes to mind. A respectful answer deserves careful consideration. If we think about this in the context of a classroom, students may feel pressure to be the first one with their hand up. Can this be traced back to the relationship between teacher praise and encouragement? Are students shaping their answers to what they think the teacher will give recognition to? To encourage students to go beyond the framework they need time for reflection so they can take that risk. A silent classroom during discussions can be a good indication that the “wheels are turning.” Silence allows individuals to be within their own thoughts, feelings and self.
    I am also working on being a better listener, particularily when a problematic issue is involved. Sometimes there isn’t an answer and the best solution was just to listen.

  3. This is a great blog. I am a talker, but to be a better listener I have learned to keep things short. I really appreciate the specific nature of your advice on how to be a better listener, as both myself and my students can follow specific advice, like the point about pausing. Well done, and keep blogging. And keep it to this length, as it is perfect.

  4. @Anna – great additions to the thoughts! I like what you say about silence and “wheels turning”. Too often we ask questions like “who can tell me…” that require little reflection. Thanks for adding to my learning!

    @James Thanks for your feedback! I often want to write so much but for us in the busy world of education, sometimes succinct is the way to go.

  5. I am SO guilty of thinking about my response instead of truly listening. I even do it when I’m reading. You know, like reading blog posts. 😉 When I slow down internally, it really helps!

    My students (K-5) and I have been practicing the skill of listening with our eyes. We talk about giving others respect, and that looking at someone while they’re speaking is a great way to show that respect.

    Thanks for the great reminder!!

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