Learning to “Actively” Listen

Listening is easy right? Wrong. How many times have we really listened to someone talk without our minds wandering, or subconsciously thinking of a response? Seldom. The good news is that active listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice and time. Yes, it takes practice.

Active listening, as the name suggests is fully concentrating on the words of the speaker and being attentive towards the thoughts the speaker shares. Active listening not only demands full concentration of the brain, but also the demonstration of positive body language. You can gently probe the speaker to elaborate on his/her thoughts. This usually makes the speaker feel positively encouraged and more comfortable in sharing his/her thoughts, and you will be surprised that sometimes there are many layers of emotions or thoughts that leads to a conclusion.

So I have been practicing active listening a lot in school these days. I have to admit, initially it was mentally exhausting and I had to make a conscious effort to stay involved, not let my head wander off to some dream land and also have a positive body language plus gentle probing plus understanding the thoughts of the speaker as well. By the end of it, I was quite drained BUT I loved it. As days went by and I got more practice, active listening came naturally and before I realised I was listening NOT hearing at home as well. My conclusion – it is the most beautiful skill I have acquired till date, and I thank you with gratitude to all my “teacher educators” who introduced me to this life skill. Another tick on my bucket list on why I want to become an educator.

So, can we apply active listening in the classroom environment? Of course we can, and we must. In fact, listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills.

Often, children go through an emotional roller coaster during the day, from feelings of exhilaration to disappointments. Some children may feel frustrated or stressed or excited or lonely if they have had a fight with friends. As I have learnt, every child are unique with their own unique personality and as an educator it is up to us to talk to them and listen. This would not be the time to object or agree or judge or even feel emotionally involved and interrupt or come with solutions. More often than not, children while sharing come up with their own solutions but most importantly they want to be heard and by listening educators rekindle the feeling of acceptance with their student. Having this secure relationship is one of the strongest factors in helping children to become resilient, responsible and caring people.

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