Being a good listener involves more than just hearing what is said with your ears.
Being a good listener means that you listen with your entire body! To listen to someone is to focus on them and think about what they are saying to understand it.
Being a good listener is actually a Superpower that students can practice and become better at!
Listening is something that will help you with your teachers, your friends, your parents, and your siblings! Another phrase for good listening is “active listening” because you involve your mind, body and heart!
Listening with your mind is actually hearing the words with your ears, and then your brain processes what was said to better understand it. Active listening involves asking questions if you don’t understand and painting a picture in your mind (visualizing) what the other person is saying.
Listening with your body is all about good body language! Active listeners face their whole body toward whoever is talking, and look at them while they are talking with eye contact. They do not talk at the same time, and stay focused on the speaker. An active listener’s facial expressions usually match what is being said. If the speaker is saying something sad, the listener might look sad; if the speaker is saying something exciting, the active listener usually as a smile on their face!
Listening with your heart is listening for feelings. What is the speaker’s tone of voice? Do they want to be comforted? Do they want you to share in their excitement? Once you find out what the speaker is saying, is that
PRACTICE ACTIVE LISTENING WITH I DO -WE DO- YOU DO!
Life skills, even communication skills, can be learned in an I Do – We Do – You Do format!
We use this format at Superpowers Academy, where we guide you through how to team up with your kids and learn these life skills.
During the “I Do” part of the skill building, you as the parent/adult tell your child what the skill is that they are learning quite explicitly (“active listening”), and model the skill.
- Stand in front of a mirror with your child, and look at yourself. Tell your child that the “mirror” you are the listener. Have your child point out whether or not you are making eye contact with yourself in the mirror. Practice with good eye contact, and poor eye contact.
- Now, nod your head in the mirror, and have your child notice how the “mirror” you also nods their head.
- Change up your facial expressions to show how the “mirror” you also changes their facial expressions to mirror the real you. This exercise is good for helping your child see how to ‘mirror’ the speaker when they are the listener.
During the “We Do” part of the skill-building, take some time to practice with your child, by coming up with role-playing situations that you might find yourselves in. Practice taking turns with active listening (body, heart, mind). Some times, have your child be the listener, and sometimes allow yourself to be the listener. This will help them see and experience active listening from both perspectives.
- Read a book to your child. Point out active listening skills from your child when you recognize them (“Great job listening with your whole body, by facing me while I’m reading!”) Allow your child to practice reading a book to you if he/she is old enough. Show examples and non-examples, where you display good active listening skills or no active listening skills, and see if your child can point out which you are displaying.
- Sit at your dinner table, and tell a story. Point out active listening skills from your child when you recognize them (“I noticed you were making eye contact while I was talking, way to go!”). Then, allow your child to tell a story, and challenge your child to point out what you did well and what was not active listening.
- Play Simon Says. If you say “Simon Says” before giving a direction, your child should do the movement. If you do not say “Simon Says” before giving a direction, your child should not do the movement. See how many instructions you can give before getting “Out”! Then, let your child be the direction-giver and you have to be the active listener.
During the “I do” part of the role-playing, your child is on their own without your assistance. Throughout a normal day, try engaging your child with directions, stories, or conversations, and then point out/praise them when active listening skills were displayed.
Active listening to understand and participate in a conversation is a crucial soft skill to help your child develop, and it will be helpful now, and throughout their future schooling and social development!