How to stay present during conversations

We all probably like to think we’re a good listener. After all, we wouldn’t be able to interact with families, manage school operations, and spend time with students if we weren’t able to listen, right? As writer G.K. Chesterton once put it—there’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.

Technology has forever changed the way we interact with others. Each day we “hear” a lot; with mobile technology, we’re able to take in information virtually any time, anywhere. But how much of that information are we actually “listening” to? Science says multitasking is harder than we think.

Here are few quick stats about how we’re communicating:

With all of those distractions, how do we ensure that we’re not just hearing families, administrators, and students, but actually listening to what they have to say? Julian Treasure, founder and chairman of The Sound Agency, has created a helpful acronym to facilitate better listening: RASA.

  • Receive – Let the person know what they’re saying is being received.
  • Appreciate – Provide verbal and audio cues to acknowledge your appreciation of what is being said.
  • Summarize – The word “so” is very important when recapping what you’ve just listened to.
  • Ask – Ask questions after to clarify, challenge, and educate.

So how do we balance the need to stay accessible while being an engaged listener?

  • Set expectations – If you’re in a meeting, on a conference call, or even at a family gathering and know that you may receive another call or need to multi-task, don’t try and be sneaky.
  • Be respectful – Don’t multi-task unless absolutely necessary.
  • No phubbing – Phubbing (phone + snubbing) has become a common occurrence. We all like to think no one sees us texting under the table. Unfortunately, everyone knows what we’re doing because they do the same thing. Do your best to be fully present during conversations by keeping your phone not just out of sight, but out of your hands.

Mobile technology will continue to change the way we communicate. If we can remain focused on the art of listening, we’ll be able to cut through all the noise and effectively engage with students and families.