On the Importance of Listening



Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

As a literacy specialist, I so love the fact that the English/Language Arts Standards include, Reading, Writing, Language, and Speaking and Listening.  However, I am always amazed by the amount of “speaking” and the lack of “listening” found in daily discourse.

Calm, quiet, rational – it’s not about the loudest voice.  It’s also not about “Who talks the most?” and have they just worn down the listener who really is only listening with one ear? Or is listening and multi-tasking?  Is that really listening?  What should one really be listening for?

Are speaking and listening two sides of the same coin?

Is a monologue really communication?  How important is speaking if there is no listener?  And the flip side:  Can there be communication if there is only a listener who never speaks?  Does a “dialogue” always mean that the speaker and the listener are both equally invested in the communication?

Which of these quotes fits your schema about communication?


Source:  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_communication.html#aWJ5O5Zkmvq5EKqt.99

Why is communication hard?

So why does “communication” break down?  Why is it hard to convey a precise meaning in words, coupled with our actions and emotions?  Is it complex or as simple as this quote?


What message do you communicate?
Do your actions speak louder than your words?

When do you REALLY listen?


o5.13.14  Check out Julieanne’s post about a student conference.  This was totally about listening to understand!








21 responses

  1. I love this post Fran! I know that sometimes I fall into listening so that I can have my turn talking and not so that I can respond in a meaningful way, but I try hard to not fall into this trap. It’s amazing how much better the conversations go and how much more we learn when we listen , really listen. Clare at http://assessmentinperspective.com/ wrote a post today that you will love and it reminds me of yours, a bit.

    Thank you for SUCH wise words!

    1. Thanks, Melanie. I just saw Clare’s post and it is so good! Really listening is hard, but it does mean that we have to focus on understanding!

      Always appreciate your comments!

  2. Listening in this very busy distracted world is one of the most difficult abilities to cultivate. To truly listen encompasses self control and self awareness. Lots of food for thought today thanks to your post.

    1. Thanks, Haddon. You are so correct that it is a “very busy distracted world.” True listening is hard.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Such an important interpersonal skill. The idea of listening to understand vs. reply is such an interesting way to think about it. It begs the question what is understanding? We often color what others say with what we want to hear, or what we want to communicate. To understand where the speaker’s thoughts are we have to move our agendas (schemas even) out of the way. Kinda reminds me of some of those reading challenges. Great post, food for thought.

    1. Thanks, Julieanne. I always enjoy your thoughts! We do “often color what others say with what we want to hear, or what we want to communicate.” Communication is an “important interpersonal skill.”

      Thanks for sharing your thinking!

  4. I think Rollo May’s quote gets to the heart of it, Fran. Communication is about building that community and allowing pathways to share ideas and grow one’s learning. That’s why I spend so much time at the beginning of the school year establishing our classroom community – without that foundation, little real learning can take place.

    1. Thanks, Tara! Community and communication are so closely entwined and it is an important foundation. And as you said “without that foundation, little real learning can take place.” It’s not easy, but the time is well spent!

      I appreciate you stopping by and leaving comments!

  5. I love the quote – we listen to reply so true and we really limit ourselves that way. Thanks for the reminder to listen to understand.

    1. Thanks, Anna. I found myself listening differently today as a result of this thinking as well. You are so right in that “we really limit ourselves that way.”

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. It’s a good quote to share with students too when we are talking about “listening”. I do like ““The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Peter Drucker also, Fran, and it means ‘understanding’ too. We’re working on students discussing body language, what they notice when they are having conversations with a small group, or one-on-one. Thanks for an important topic highlighted.

    1. Thanks, Linda.
      There is much to consider when working with communicating clearly and “hearing what isn’t said” does not come easily. I like that you’re discussing body language – those nonverbals are so critical in “hearing what isn’t said.”

      I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!

  7. I love everything about this post. We are thinking so much about growing talk, responding and just listening in classrooms. Students are so focused on what they want to say that they cannot open themselves up to listen what others are saying. I love you quotes and your questions –so much to think about. I love the idea — we listen to reply — I think that is so true and it gets in our way of truly listening. So much to think about… thank you

    1. Thanks, Clare, but your post was so much more eloquent today.

      And I love your thinking about students who get so focused on “what they want to say” because that’s one of my arguments for conversation lines. They allow the students to continue to practice so that the message can at some time, shift to understanding! It will take practice.

      Thank you for commenting!

  8. So much food for thought here. I’m using the quotes, plus the closing visual for today’s quick write. We’ll see how my sixth graders respond. Thanks for a thought-provoking slice.

    1. Ramona,
      I can’t wait to hear how your students respond to the quotes. Asking questions is easy; providing time for thought is much harder! For good communication we must remember NOT to rush. Thoughtful reflection with understanding is more critical than a quick reply.

  9. Teaching kids to listen is difficult. I was trained in Responsive Classroom last summer and it has really helped to teach the students social skills such as listening.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jennie. Listening is difficult and even more so for students who do not believe that their voice matters or that anyone ever listens to them.

      I am not familiar with “Responsive Classroom” but it sounds intriguing!

  10. That quote (which I’m going to pin in just a moment) is exactly what’s wrong with the way we listening.

    I just saw your previous exchange with Jennie. Responsive Classroom is wonderful. It changed my teaching!

    1. Thanks, Stacey.

      It’s always important to know our focus and goals so we can meet them. Thanks for the link on Responsive Classrooms!

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