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Top Tips for Active Listening

Thanks to its partnership with publisher Eye on Education, EducationWorld is pleased to present this advice from The Trust Factor: Strategies for School Leaders by Julie Combs, Stacey Edmonson and Sandra Harris. This tip presents eight listening habits for school leaders to avoid as they develop strong active-listening techniques.

In the same way that there are techniques for developing stronger active-listening habits, there are also behaviors that have a negative impact on the listening experience. When you listen to people, avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Do not say how you handled similar situations or how you would feel in their shoes.
  • Do not change the focus back to you. Avoid telling them about the time you had the same problem. Remember, this is not about you.
  • Don’t try to start giving them resources or solutions unless they ask you for ideas. Active listening does not mean you are there to solve their problems.
  • Don’t judge them. Statements such as “What were you thinking?” or “That’s awful!” imply they did something wrong. Avoid saying whether they are right or wrong. Judgment can increase their fears about sharing and cause them to withdraw.
  • Let them finish. It is easy to interrupt or jump in, but these behaviors disrupt the conversation and change the focus of the conversation as well as your role as a listener.
  • Be comfortable with silence and pauses. These gaps are healthy; you do not have to fill all the spaces with words.
  • Give them your undivided attention. If your mind wanders, grab it and bring it back.
  • Do not think about your reply before they have finished talking and had a chance to say what they want to say. This action is interrupting without opening your mouth. Again, your role as the listener has been disrupted, and you are no longer focused on what they are saying or on their need to be heard.

Listening actively is an important component in building a trusting climate. In fact, when you listen actively, trust building is only an “ear” away.


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