Communication is such a necessary tool for children, parents, staff and professionals alike have different requirements and their levels of engagement should always aim to match their levels of need. In our everyday conversation meandering through emotions, defensiveness and non verbal clues takes time and skill. Our ultimate aim? To have positive relationships on a deeper level and central to this is the art of listening and focussing on both what is said combined with non verbal clues.
Josh Gibson, author of ‘The Art of Active Listening: How to Double Your Communication Skills in 30 Days’, outlines four practical steps to develop reflective listening:
Acceptance – Encourage the speaker by conveying your interest in what they are saying. Things to consider are maintain gentle eye contact, lean forward, smile, nod and use a positive tone of voice.
Honesty – Restate the speakers basic ideas in your own words helps them know you are listening and helps to build rapport. Using phrases such as ‘In other words, your decision is’ and ‘If I understand, your idea is’.
Empathy – Reflect with your speaker on the subject being discussed by identifying emotions and asking for confirmation. You can pick up cues from body language, facial expressions and voice tone.
Specifics – Summarise the speakers important ideas, facts and feelings by restating and reflecting the feelings expresses. Being specific with this feedback helps to establish a starting point for further discussion. For example ‘Let me get this right, these are the events that occurred at the nursery today…and you felt… when these things took place. Is that right?’
A good listener creates a place of trust and a sense of belonging. Your position should reflect a person who is confident about themselves which inevitably will emanate through your team.
One of the greatest tips for childcare leaders and aspiring active listeners, is to blot out the noise in your mind so that you can give the speaker your focus. Here are some suggestions to doing just that –
- Try to sit up or stand up straight so you can engage with the person you are listening too.
- Keep listening to the person and try not to think about what you are going to say.
- Assure the person you are listening by responding with an acknowledgement but let them speak, especially if it is a difficult matter that involves you.
- Work is not perfect and there will be barriers in communication, always clarify and ensure that you keep an open fair mind about your feedback.
The objective is not to get defensive which may be a natural reaction for some but to understand what is best for the situation at the time, the risk factors (if any) and solutions that fits both the employees and the business. Ultimately, creating an environment of trust and honesty is a value we desire.
As a professional “The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.” A. Woodrow.
What effective active listening skills work for you and your teams? What good examples can you share with aspiring active listeners?