Are you a listener, or more of a talker?
I must admit for much of my life I have been a talker. But as I have gotten older and learned more about myself and others I have learned the importance of also being a good listener.
Through the Kindness Kangaroo Project, as I work with classrooms of children listening to their ideas for the stories I have seen how listening is so important. These kids want to have their ideas heard, they want to share and be part of the process. Even the shy children approach me afterward to quietly share an idea with me.
I love to listen to what they have to say. To not form an opinion about their ideas or the story before I really hear what they are telling me. Many times we fail as good listeners when we focus on already knowing about the topic (which means we don't remain open about learning something different about it) or we focus on what we want to comment about next, giving our opinion power, instead of offering that power to what is being said to us.
Listen to help you understand
As a good listener we must concentrate on listening before doing anything else. We must listen and make sure we understand, and ask questions that allow clarification if we don't. We need to focus on what is being said so we can determine what is needed for us to do. Is the person asking for advice, or just needing a sounding board? Is the person trying to force their ideas on us or are they just sharing a different viewpoint?
When we listen to understand we eliminate confusion, do away with assumptions and really start to learn about people and their perspectives which, in turn, can help us understand and deal with people respectfully.
Book recommendation: Question Quetzal
This book introduces children to the importance of asking questions rather than make assumptions.
It encourages us to ask questions to help understand rather than judge. This book has a large focus on people with differences and shows friendship, acceptance, kindness and inclusion. This book was written and illustrated with the help of a life skills class.
"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." --Bryant H. McGill
Listening is a powerful tool to show and earn respect. Respect is also shown is how we use our words. Check out the blog post Changing Our Vocabulary to find out what I mean.