Listen With Your Eyes

Listen more, talk less

As leaders, whether we are administrators, teachers, coaches, parents or students, a skill that is often lost is listening.  Too many times we think we need to provide answers or solutions when all we really need to do is listen.

Have you ever been in a conversation and not known what the second half of the dialogue has been because all you were thinking about was what you ‘needed’ to say?

Have you ever been in a meeting and been interrupted before you completed your thought?

Have you ever drifted during a conversation and began to think about something completely different?

Do you know someone that flips the conversation to stories about him/herself all the time? Does he/she ‘one-up’ you? (“That’s nothing, this one time…”)

One of my goals for the past 2 years is to become an active listener – to be there in the moment – during conversations with my wife, family, colleagues, students, and staff members.  What does this mean?  What does this look like?

  1. If you are truly listening, you are not thinking about what YOU are going to say, you are thinking about what the speaker is saying.
  2. In an effective conversation the thinking moves deeper.  Ask questions built upon what has been stated by the speaker.
  3. Pausing is good.  Before you respond, pause and reflect on what has been said, then think before speaking.  I have been working on this skill by observing many of our First Nation leaders (including our FN Support Workers in our school)- conversations need not be rushed.
  4. The most piece of a conversation is not what is said, but what is heard.  Make sure you truly understand what the speaker is stating.
  5. Listen with your eyes.
A little girl came home from school with a drawing she’d made in class.  She danced into the kitchen, where her mother was preparing dinner.
“Mom, guess what?” she squealed, waving the drawing.
Her mom never looked up.
“What?” she said, tending to the pots.
“Guess what?” the child repeated, waving the drawing.
“What?” the mother said, tending to the plates.
“Mom, you’re not listening.”
“Sweetie, yes I am.”
“Mom,” the child said, “you’re not listening with your eyes.
Mitch Albom

As educators we need to be active listeners to many different speakers: students, staff, administrators, parents, and community members.  Most often, when engaged in conversation, we do not need to know the answers or jump to a solution or a story about us – we just need to be there, in that moment, and listen with our eyes.

For more conversations, please follow me on Twitter and go to The Wejr Board blog.


  1. What a wonderful blog post! This whole idea of “listening with your eyes” reminds me of the book, Fish For Schools. I love the Fish philosophy, and even though our school didn’t completely adopt it, I still use the key components of it when teaching character education in my classroom. One of the big concepts is “being there,” and this includes listening with your eyes. It includes letting people know if it’s not a good time to really listen, and if that’s the case, then setting another time where you can really be there for the person and listen to them. In an age where we’re constantly multi-tasking (i.e., answering e-mails, checking tweets, and conversing with others at the same time), I think it’s important to take the time to really listen.

    Last year, I found that during Show and Tell time at the end of the day, I was constantly trying to do other things, and I wasn’t “listening with my eyes.” As a result, my students weren’t either. This really bothered me, and I knew that I was to blame too. I decided to set-up a Listening Rubric, and I added myself to the list too. As a class, we decided what a good listener looked like, and at the end of Show and Tell each day, we all evaluated ourselves as listeners. This made all of us (myself included) a better listener! The students also thought it was great that I needed to learn this skill too.

    Thanks for reminding me of this and of the importance in really listening … to parents, to colleagues, to friends, and to students!


    September 4, 2010
    • Chris Wejr said:

      Thanks so much for adding to the importance of listening. I like your idea of letting people know if it is not a good time that a conversation might be better at a later time. This is so important. My wife reminds me all the time of being ‘there’ as I am constantly tweeting, texting, and emailing – this is something that I need to continue to work on. Thanks for commenting Aviva!!!

      September 4, 2010
  2. I can understand! I’m constantly doing the same thing. Sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s okay to turn off the computer so that I can really “be there” for the conversation happening in front of me.


    September 4, 2010
  3. Lyn Hilt said:

    Chris, this post really resonates with me. I sometimes get stuck in “decision-making mode” as I go about my day, and I forget that the people with whom I’m interacting don’t necessarily want answers- they want someone to listen to. Actively listen. Thanks for reminding us of this!

    September 6, 2010

Comments are closed.