The Power of Listening

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I have seen the benefits of giving kids their voice.  I have seen the power behind allowing kids to expand, grow, gain confidence, and share with the world.  I think however, that in our  excitement in helping children find a way to impress who they are and who they want to be upon the world, we can lose sight of a very important, powerful thing: LISTENING.

Listening is perhaps one of the most incredible tools for learning that we possess.  I can learn more about a person from five minutes of listening than I can from five hours of reading through google search results.  One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie “Fight Club” where the characters are discussing how it feels to talk at severe illness support groups and they say,

“When people think you are dying, they really listen to you… instead of just waiting for their turn to talk.”

I find myself guilty of this far too often.  There is incredible power in the ability to close one’s mouth long enough to really hear things.  I have grown to learn that the more often I listen, the more I learn.  Generally, throughout my life I have learned most through interaction, but a part of me wonders how much of the responses of others I genuinely listened to and how much of it was me waiting to retort.  As a student, usually I knew what the answer would be before I asked the question and I would lead the discussion in the direction I was heading.  Sure, this method allowed me to learn and process quite a lot, but imagine how much more I could have learned if I really listened to the answers before opening my mouth again.

The more I talk, the less opportunity I have to learn from others.  Here is something to remember when working with kids, staff, or anyone else:

If you really want to learn, ask an open-ended question, then begin listening.  Don’t anticipate the answer, just listen and maybe, you might just learn more about others and yourself than you planned.

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