The importance of Listening…
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.”
When we think of oral communication and public speaking, we often tend to focus on getting our children speaking as quickly as possible. The importance of effective and active listening for healthy communication is often overlooked. Listening is where communication begins. Babies listen before they speak. They evaluate their surroundings before they respond and express themselves.
In school, many years are spent teaching children how to read, how to write and how to spell. But do we teach them how to listen, how to listen for understanding? If our children knew better how to listen, might they take in more of the information we are trying to impart.
Listening is possibly the most fundamental skill in communication but for many, it is also the most difficult. It is not the same as hearing. Hearing refers to the physical, almost passive and automatic process of sound entering our ears. Listening is a more active process, requiring attention, focus and concentrated effort. Good listeners listen not only to what is being said but HOW it’s being said. Good listeners don’t just listen with their ears. We tell our students to listen with their ears, their eyes, their minds and their hearts. In preparation to begin listening, we advise our students to open their ears, their eyes, their minds and their hearts because good listening is a multi-sensory experience.
We often listen simply to reply, intent on saying what’s on our minds, sometimes whether it’s relevant or not. With that motivation in mind, we, unfortunately miss much of what a speaker is saying to us.
In a school and classroom situation, who do we teachers listen to? Who do we expect our students to listen to? What opportunities do we provide for our students to listen to their peers or even, to listen to their own voice. I’ve heard it said that children remember most what they say in their own voice, next what they hear in their peers’ voices and thirdly, what the teacher says. Yet, in most classrooms still today, whose voice dominates?
Oral Language, Communication Skills and Public Speaking Training Programmes should include and begin with Listening Skills’ Development.