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The Importance of Being Present: Active Listening

This week’s focus is on active listening and its importance to being a caring and effective early learning educator.   Active listening is about listening to understand.  It is about being present in the moment. Active listening is akin to mindful meditation as you need to remove distractions and focus. Unlike meditation, though, you want to focus outwardly rather than inwardly. 

Outward focus is important as it means you are directing your attention to that person who is talking to you.

  • You are focused on them.
  • You are reading their body language.
  • You are noting the inflections in their voice.                                    The Importance of Being PresentActive Listeningpic
  • You hear their message.

You are mindfully listening to them so you can respond in kind.  

Inward focus is not conducive to active listening.  Making that grocery list in your head while a colleague talks to you about a concern means you are not listening.   Inwardly rolling your eyes at someone means you are not listening.  Thinking of your response and waiting for a chance to respond is not active listening.   Waiting for a child to stop talking to you so you can address the other children in the book corner is not active listening.

So, how do you respond?  You can interject with comments that demonstrate you are listening. Use I-messages in doing so. “I hear, by your voice, that this was frustrating for you.”   You can repeat what they have said but ask for clarity. “You want to change the paperwork binder. What do you find problematic?”   You can respond with an invitation: “Wow, that must have been surprising. Tell me what happened next?”  These are all methods that demonstrate engagement and active listening.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of impassive listening or unwanted advice, then you know you have not been actively listened to; it doesn’t feel good, does it?  We have all had someone in our lives who we talk to but who doesn’t listen to us. They seem only to want to listen to themselves. This is not active listening. Remember that active listening is divided into two parts.  ‘Active’ means it is a dynamic process, so you need to pay attention.  ‘Listening’ means you need to acknowledge the components of the message. 

Who do you actively listen to?  Actively listen to yourself, and the signals/messages your body and brain are telling you.  Actively listen to your colleagues and, in doing so, become a collaborative and compassionate team member.  Actively listen to your families. Bring them into your conversational circle and give them your full attention to demonstrate your value and respect their thoughts, values and beliefs.  Lastly, and most importantly, actively listen to the children! Give them your full attention so that you can show them you value their thoughts and ideas. 

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply”.   Do not let this quote apply to you; instead, listen to understand and then reply thoughtfully.

For more ideas of how you can actively listen, check out this website:

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