10 Ways to Listen More. Talk Less. Teach Well.

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.” Doug Larson

So often, people don't hear what you say because they're too busy formulating their own response. Let's focus on listening, especially to our students.

Set a personal goal to be a better listener this week.

1. Listen to your students daily.

 If your students never get to talk, how will you know what is going on in their minds? Unless you have developed the sense of telepathy, you're missing out.

2. Ask Open Ended Questions

Take time every class period to ask open ended questions that require more than a yes/ no answer.

3. Speak Less. Model active listening.

Decide you are going to empty the room of every emotion, thought, and opinion on this topic before revealing my own.

4. Model Active Listening

Take notes with names so you can show what active listening looks like. When it is your turn to speak, demonstrate that you listened by quoting who said what and your response. Ask your students to do the same.

5. Listen to everyone. 

Have a box of coins or tokens and give each student two. Each time he/she talks, they deposit the coin in the box. After their tokens are gone, that student may not share until everyone's tokens are gone. Your more vocal students will begin to realize they are monopolizing the conversation. (Some will even ask other students for their coins, don't let it happen.)

6. Promote open dialog.

“I'm sorry, did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?”

Let students finish their thoughts. Your interruptions often stymie good conversation. Encourage your students to do the same.

7. Enjoy the stories of others.

Find enjoying in hearing the stories of others. You'll find great entertainment and fascination in the lives of the amazing people around you.

8. Learn regardless of the speaker's style. Model good manners.

Resist the temptation to allow a person's speaking style and bad habits prevent you from learning. If a person is speaking, it is because they have something to share. Educators who rudely leave in droves when a conference speaker doesn't meet expectations are not setting good models of the etiquette we want from students. IF they did that in a boring assembly, we'd call it disrespect. If you know you have to leave early, sit at the back where your leaving won't be misconstrued or distracting. If you're not sure about the speaker, sit at the back. Educators should model what we want to see in society.

9. Treat the time of others as valuable.

When you have the chance to speak, time yourself. Plan out what you will say and never take speaking to others for granted. They are people of worth. Before I speak, I literally pray and practice for hours to give the right message for that unique audience. Spend time getting to know that audience and the people there. Work to make them feel like they are the only person on the planet, because right now, they are. The attention of others is a once in a lifetime gift. Treat it as precious because they are giving you their most precious gift… their time.

10. If you have trouble with interrupting

Use a cue. Hold a pencil or pen in your hand. As long as someone else is speaking, grip it. Let loose of your grip when he/she finishes talking and then take your turn.

When it is OK to interrupt.

There are places and times where people rudely interrupt. I've found this is often the case in the business world. I learned some bad habits of interrupting in a world where if you didn't interrupt, you literally wouldn't be heard. It is sad but it is true that this happens. If you're in such a situation, you're going to have to use good judgement about the social mores in the room.

Some will say it is never OK to interrupt, but in places where a strong manager doesn't allow everyone to be heard, you will relegate yourself to being quiet and not being heard or noticed if you quietly sit by and let the room pass you by. (I've seen some studies that show this is why women are often not heard in business, because most women won't interrupt.) There are times you need to step up and be heard. Just make sure you don't dominate the conversation. Eventually in business meetings, I would interject to call attention to a person who wouldn't speak up for themselves. It shows you're trying to help everyone be heard and people appreciate that.

In Conclusion

Remember that sometimes your behavior shouts so loud people don't hear what you say. If you're talk about listening well and you don't do it yourself, you're a hypocrite and so am I. Let's be true to what we believe in our classrooms.

Listen more. Talk Less. Teach Well.

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