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What is good listening?

Listening involves giving attention. When a person doesn’t get it, they can feel upset, confused, angry and it can affect their self-esteem
© University of Reading

Listening involves giving attention, and when a person doesn’t get that attention, they can feel upset, confused, angry and it can affect their self-esteem. It can also cause them to falter in what they’re saying and forget the thread of what they’re trying to say.

Good listening isn’t just hearing what’s been said. It involves connecting with the speaker, and demonstrating interest through not what you say but how you behave.

All pupils need to be given attention when they’re speaking and they don’t need to have someone they’re trying to talk to getting distracted. Even in busy classrooms, it’s important to make sure that you practice good listening for all.

Tips for good listening

  • Remember, listening is about listening, not talking. It sounds obvious but we so often want to join in! Sometimes all a person needs is to be heard.
  • Whatever the person is saying try to empathise, have sympathy, even if you think it doesn’t matter.
  • Keep an open mind to what they’re saying; try not to judge them.
  • Listen to every word and paraphrase back parts of what that person has said.
  • Think about what’s being said and what useful question would help them to process their thoughts to a higher level.
  • Give them eye contact and if you have to check the classroom regularly to ensure everyone else is okay, make sure you do this quickly.
  • Look attentive and interested, reassure them you’re listening by nodding, maybe saying ‘mmm’ sometimes.
  • Try not to interrupt or impose solutions. People often try to help with comments such as: ‘I know how you feel’, which doesn’t help as you don’t actually know what it’s like to be anyone else. Or someone might say: ‘I wouldn’t worry’, even though the person speaking is clearly worried. Even suggesting solutions such as: ‘what I would do’ doesn’t really help, as the person talking needs to find their own solutions and sometimes this comes with simply talking about the problem out loud and the listener just listening.
  • Allow for silence, as the person might need time to process ideas and not everyone processes at the same rate.
© University of Reading
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