— Lee Iacocca, former president and CEO, Chrysler Corporation
Deal and Peterson in their work with principals posture that the average principal has 2000 interactions per day with students, staff, parents, community members, etc. 2000! That is a lot of opportunities to have an impact on our presence and model our values and beliefs. If we are not truly listening, then what message are we sending to those we interact with? We don’t value what they have to say? What they have to say is not important? We don’t have time for them?
When I was a teacher, I learned of the Chinese symbol for Active Listening which I taught and used in my classroom as my signal and then for 20 years when I was an elementary principal. Active listening symbols include You, Eyes, Ears, Undivided Attention, and Heart. Seems like if one were able to emulate all of these, you would have a good start to being a good listener.
But, I found out much later when I learned of Garmston’s Norms of Collaboration the importance and knowledge needed to practice being an active listener. It starts with what I call always following the 3 P’s PAUSING, PARAPHRASING, AND PROBING OR POSING QUESTIONS! In Garmston’s work from Adaptive Schools he outlines that :
- PAUSING-Pausing, before responding or asking a question, allows time for thinking and enhances dialogue, discussion, and decision-making.
- PARAPHRASING-Using a paraphrase starter that is comfortable for you – “So…” or “As you are…” or “You’re thinking…” – and following the starter with an efficient paraphrase assists members of the group in hearing and understanding one another as they converse and make decisions.
- PROBE OR POSING QUESTIONS-Two intentions of posing questions are to explore and to specify thinking. Questions may be posed to explore perceptions, assumptions, and interpretations, and to invite others to inquire into their thinking. For example, “What might be some conjectures you are exploring?” Use focusing questions such as, “Which students, specifically?” or “What might be an example of that?” to increase the clarity and precision of group members’ thinking. Inquire into others’ ideas before advocating one’s own.
You have heard the wise words of Franklin Covey from his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to “Listen to understand, instead of to be understood.” The gift of listening causes us to clear our minds, postulate positive intentions, not focus on what we want to say to be heard, but to truly listen to what the other person is saying.
You can get better at listening by practicing! Practice pausing for the count of three! It’s a miracle! The quiet silence allows for more opportunity for the other person to respond and talk first! It also sends a strong message that we are clearing our brain! This is the time to focus with eyes, ears, undivided attention, and heart. Carolyn McKanders a well known Adaptive Schools trainer always says “Paraphrase your behind off!” The simple skill of reflecting back what the person said to you sends such a clear message. I heard what you said and I AM LISTENING TO YOU! Finally, posing questions. We are a better listener when we are doing more asking instead of telling. As Garmston says, “Inquire into others’ ideas before advocating one’s own!
In my mentor training through NAESP the three rules of being a mentor are to 1. Listen more 2. Ask more questions and 3. Don’t make a mini-me. For so many busy, productive, leaders who are intent on getting things done, it is a big shift to ask instead of tell. But, in the long run, our ability to be an active listener helps in the feedback we give, the dialogue we participate in, and the statements we deliver.
I am going to work hard at it in 2020 to follow my one word and LISTEN! I will use you as my support partners and listen with my eyes, ears, and heart!