The art of listening in an era of me, me, me

The Times Educational Supplement recently published an article that caught my eye. Doug Lemov’s piece ‘Teaching the art of listening in the age of me, me me’,  makes that subtle distinction between hearing and listening.

He points out: “There seem to be precious few who seek to hear in the words of those who oppose them a moment of insight that might explain why they think as they do, or an opportunity for common ground, or a cause to modify their own opinion”.

Stephen Covey

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply”

The cause?

A mixture, Lemov suggests. Social media, plays a part, as does the erosion of expert or authoritative voices (academe, the media) and rapid social and technological change which increasingly puts the self above the ‘other’.

But it was his suggestion of a potential cure that rang most loudly for me: A return to the art of listening.

He cites Stephen Covey, whose book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, suggested “most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply.”

Lemov’s claim that Covey’s observation has never been truer (beyond perhaps the inner circles of tyrants and kings) than it is today is spot on.

He recommends teachers ‘chart’ students’ responses to a set question. Charting, he explains, “is writing down shorthand versions of key points on the board during discussion”.

I’m wondering whether the students too might gain from such an exercise – the act of recording multiple viewpoints and attributing them to real people other than themselves.

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