Listening Speaks Volumes – Why Listening is so important (Includes Activity Plan)

Saturday Morning 2018-01-27

I often find myself in conversations where my participation level sits at around 90% listening and 10% head nodding in empathetic agreement or offering the odd sliver of compassion and advice.

I sit and nod, tilt my head to one side, keep eye contact, and let the words of my companion seep inside my head and resonate within me.

I enjoy this kind of conversation. Firstly, I like to be quiet. I mean, of course I need to talk too, to get things out of this melon and onto the chopping board ready to be dissected and served up as something transformed. I like to talk, but not always. Add to that I have to talk for a living, so it’s nice to have quietness and stillness to reconnect with myself.

Secondly, I like this kind of conversation because it reminds me of who I was before I learned to bring mindfulness into my daily routine. Sounds so arrogant and I don’t mean it to. Let me explain myself;

I know what it is to be lonely. I know what it is to need a compassionate ear to bend and stretch to fit the words literally bursting from my mouth. I know how it feels to need release. I know how it feels to feel (and be) alone. To have the urgency to say the words out loud to someone I trust, to look at someone’s face as a waterfall of emotions spill from my heavy lips and their eyes fixated on mine reassure me that ‘maybe I’m not crazy’. Not all crazy, anyway. I know the need to say the words out loud, to get them outside of my head, to share them as quickly and rapidly as possible without pause, like ripping off a band aid, because if you hesitate for even just a moment the stream of consciousness will stop, the head will clog, the confidence will wane and the wall will go back up.

So I like these types of conversations. I like being that ear to bend and stretch. I like being the sounding board for ideas and theories that really need no answer nor opinion, where nods and head-tilts alone can soothe the cuts and bruises. I like to be the figure of trust, and more than that I like to be worthy of that trust. I like to be that person. I try to be that person.

Compassion. Understanding. Kindness. Love.

Even though it’s not always easy to approach each encounter with each person I meet on a daily basis with each of these skills, I try to. I say skills, because we have to practice them each and every day in order to be proficient users. Despite our care givers’ best efforts, we learn to bypass these attributes in favor of teasing and gossiping and all the other playground habits that quickly become engrained in us as we grow.

I engage with children every day. They are naturally kind, empathetic, beautiful little creatures of inspiration. They can also be mean, and gross, and nasty and very unkind. Its part of human nature to pick up these traits, based on our environmental influences. You can read an excerpt here from one of my favourite websites regarding environmental influence on child behaviour, but there are a million different resources out there if you type it into google. Anyway…

Just as traits take years to learn, they take years of practice to change. I know this from experience. Not every day is a good day, and that’s OK. Understanding that is easy, practising that is still an ongoing process for me.

I digress…

I love to be there for my kids, for my students in class and out of class. I like to be the listener and the comfort giver, the human pillow. Of course I want to fix their problems; I want to be the fixer too. But the most important thing for me to remember as a teacher and mentor and care giver; it’s my responsibility to listen. Listen without judgement. Listen for hours and days and months and years if that’s what it takes.

By listening, we can teach others how to talk, how to share and be open and search for the answers they long for.

Listening speaks volumes. It changes lives. Listening is an ability we all have, but a skill that needs to be honed.

If we can listen to our students, without judgement, without offering our biased advice or answering questions without prompting, then we are doing them the service that they deserve and desire. Without knowing it, kids can practice being mindful in class by really listening to what’s going on around them. Listening is the cornerstone of being a good teacher, and a good friend.

Here’s a link to the Listening Circle game (also known as the whispering game) that works wonders with my classes.

I also have daily mantras I use to remind me of keeping mindfulness in my routine – you know, on those days where I’d rather eat a pair of scissors than go outside…Here are a couple-

‘Nothing is hard work when you have mindfulness’

‘In willingness a hundred thousand miles is not far, in unwillingness even your neighbor is far away’ – Venerable Master Hsing Yun

Thanks for reading! Have a beautiful, peaceful day.


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