Say What?

Building SkillsWe’ve been exploring a list of “Top 10 Communication Skills” for today’s job market. The #1 skill is not providing information, but taking it in. This is listening. When you hang around with other teachers, you often hear someone moan, “They just don’t listen.” They, of course, are students. We, of course, are professionals who listen carefully. Sure we do.listening1

According to Mindtools,

“…research suggests that we remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal!

Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren’t hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if they’re not?”

What can we do to improve? A recently published book by Caroline Web, How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life,  (whew!) recommends the tried-and-true “active listening” technique of repeating what you’ve just heard back to the speaker. Webb notes that this is particularly helpful when you don’t agree with a colleague, as the speaker feels affirmed even if you don’t join their side of the argument.

If you aren’t buying the whole active listening thing, then consider your own experiences in teaching. Haven’t you had a student in class who seems to hang on your every word? listening2Maybe she nods or smiles or furrows her brow in thought. Maybe her face says “Aha!” as she scribbles your pearls of wisdom in her notes.  Isn’t it easy to start speaking just to her, rather than the classmate who’s looking at her lap (where the phone is) or staring into the middle distance?

If you’re interested in becoming a better listener so that you can model the behaviors you want your students to learn, see “Active Listening: How to Hear What People Are Really Saying” at MindTools.

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