Listening to Understand

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Lucy Calkins stated in her book Raising Lifelong Learners, “The mark of a good conversation is when our minds are awake, and we are thinking with the other person.”

What does this mean? It means that, “It is important children learn to listen not just out of politeness, not just because they are waiting for their turn, but that they listen, hoping their minds will be changed by what the other person has said… A conversation is not a match in which the goal is to defend one’s original idea; the goal is to gain insight, to be surprised, to change one’s mind.”

We often move quickly in conversation and do not spend enough time questioning, reflecting or comprehending. People usually only listen to form a response to the speaker. The goal needs to be reversed and we should be listening to understand the speaker. Learning this skill early builds strong communication that will carry throughout life in aspects such as writing. Communication is not one sided, it takes a least two for active listening and effective understanding. When children share their stories and listen to their friends they learn to empathize with their peers and form connections.

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