We’ve all been there. I know I have. That moment when you realise that the person you are talking to is not listening. They are pretending and the moment you become aware of this, you begin an inward retreat, silently vowing to only reveal the bare minimum of yourself, whenever you are in their company again.
The reason for this is because our souls long to be heard. The very essence of who we are and what makes us special needs a safe space to be nurtured and encouraged, so that we can shine and become the very best version of ourselves.
Quite simply, we all need to be listened to.
Following one of our recent ‘Coaching for the Soul’ workshops, one participant commented, after being involved in a deep listening exercise, that she felt guilty. When asked her reasons as to why she felt this way, she said it was because the exercise made her realise, she rarely listened at a deep level.
This is not unusual. The demands of school life, often invite types of behaviour/ listening that are not fully aligned with the development of self and others.
Which types of listening behaviour do you recognise?
Have a look at the types of listening below. These are the types of listening that because of the constrains of pressure and time, have for many become the norm in our schools. As you look through the list simply ask yourself;
“When have I been on the receiving end of this type of listening and how did it make me feel?”
We appear to be listening, but we’re not. We may be hearing the words, but we’re not working to discover what they mean. When the Teller catches us, and says: “You’re not listening”, we might reply, “Yes I am. I can repeat every word you’ve said.” Not surprisingly, this reply does not satisfy the Teller. Listening is more than being a tape recorder.
We listen to determine whether what the Teller is saying is right or wrong – in our opinion. Hina ‘listens’ to Joel and thinks: “What a crazy thing to do.”
We listen only on the surface and five minutes later we can’t remember what’s been said. Similarly, we listen only to the things we want to hear, blocking out the points that may make us uncomfortable
We listen through distorting filters, such as personal prejudices and stereotyping. For instance, when the teller is talking about a friend, who has joined a religious group, the other person instantly takes a negative view because he ‘knows’ what ‘they’ are like.
Past Behaviour–Based Listening
We assume that the person you are listening to is always the same. We do not allow for change. For instance, knowing Andreas, we expect that everything he says will be tinged with self-pity. So, we hear self-pity even when he is trying to break free for this behaviour.
We anticipate what the other person is going to say and ‘listen’ to this instead of sticking to what is being said. Similarly, we ‘hear’ things that exist only in our imagination. When Amir says to Isaac, “Sorry, but I can’t give you a lift tomorrow” Isaac imagines that Amir is angry with him for some reason and builds a whole story in his mind around this invented fact.
Where are you now in your thoughts? I am guessing that if you have reflected on the earlier question, you’ll be thinking something along the lines of:
“It hurts to be listened to any of these ways”
“When I am not listened to properly, I feel misunderstood and I shut down.”
“I can’t be myself or show my vulnerabilities for risk of being judged”
What we need to understand is that for many adults in our schools, particularly our school leaders, this is their inner reality. They can never truly shine or fulfil their potential, because the educational climate in which they must operate is one that pays more attention to external measures of success, than it does to the human internal processes on which the measures of success depend.
My own experience tells me that this approach to school improvement, is not sustainable. The fault lines have already begun to appear, in the education system with increasing numbers of leaders and teachers leaving the profession.
Is it possible to be deeply listened to?
As a school leader, you do an amazing job! Every day you invest enormous amounts of time, energy, passion and commitment – seeking to create better futures for our children and the communities you serve.
This isn’t easy to maintain. After a long week and the inevitable challenges of your role, it can often feel as though your energy, hope and emotional reserves are in short supply.
That’s why I believe it’s vital that you have someone who you can turn to, who can offer you a listening ear, support, encouragement to help keep you going towards your vision.
As when we are listened to empathically, we are given a gift; a gift that enriches our experience of what it means to be human and can heal the pain of our unmet emotional needs. You are given a chance to truly be yourself and speak about what is both on your mind and in your heart; you experience a sense of release and liberation.
This is crucial as it reminds us that, amidst the chaos of school life, we are worthy, we are valuable, and our story has the right to be listened to. Moreover, it gives voice to…
– Our inner most concerns and worries
– Emotions and feelings and feelings that may have been bottled up and kept inside
– Our thoughts and hopes of how things could be
Above all, when we have a listening ear, someone who we can confide in and gain direction from, we don’t just get the support we need to survive, we discover instead how to thrive.
That’s why I’m now offering FREE “Coaching for the Soul” Calls to give school leaders the opportunity and space to be listened to in this way.
If you are a senior school leader, this 30 minute call is designed to give you a chance to:
– Talk through and get support with the challenges you’re currently facing
– Explore what you want out of life as a School Leader
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they have had on you
– Gain clarity around your thoughts and plan a way forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!