Whole Body Listening
Imagine you're 16 years old, and your parents hand you the keys to the family's car. They ask you to go to the store and pick up some milk. The request seems simple enough except for one problem: No one has taught you how to drive. Of course you've seen people do it before, and you may have even practiced at your favorite go-cart facility. Driving on an actual road requires more than putting on your seatbelt and pressing the accelerator pedal.
The same philosophy holds true for whole body listening. Whole body listening is giving different parts of your body a specific job so that you are completely focused in on what is being said. Students must be taught how to listen and what listening with your whole body looks like. The concept was created in 1990 by Susanne Poulette Truesdale. She believed that students should be taught how to listen and that listening involves more than just using your ears. An adult may easily understand the instructions, 'pay attention' or 'okay, boys and girls I need you to listen.' To a child who has not been taught how to do this, it may seem like a difficult request.
How to Listen
One of the biggest milestones that most people experience is getting their driver's license. The excitement of being on the open road independently takes lots of preparation and requires many steps to accomplish. Listening with your whole body can also be very exciting and requires practice and explanation in order for students to truly understand what is being requested of them. Whole body listening involves more than just using your ears. It means also using your eyes, feet, body, mouth, brain, hands, and heart. Each part plays a specific role so that you can truly focus, hear, and understand what is being said.
Ears, Eyes, Feet, Body, Mouth, and Hands
In whole body listening, your ears have to be ready to hear, but it's hard to hear when the rest of your body is not prepared. To hear, your eyes must be focused on who is speaking. Looking around the room is not giving your full attention to the person who is talking, and you may miss something that is important. Your feet must also be flat on the floor, and your body should be facing the person who is talking. This is your way of telling the speaker that you are preparing to hear what is going to be said.
In order to listen with your whole body, you should also remain silent. It is almost impossible to hear what someone else is saying if you are talking. When you speak when others are talking, you keep others around you from being able to fully pay attention. Your hands also have a job to do. They should be in your lap, by your sides, or in your pockets. If you are playing with or touching something, your focus leaves the speaker and redirects itself to the thing in or on your hands. These six things are visual cues you can give the person that is speaking. You are saying, 'I am ready to listen' without having to actually say anything.
Brain and Heart
Since your brain and heart are internal, it may be difficult for the speaker to actually tell if you are using them properly. Each is a very important part of whole body listening. You should be using your brain to think about what is being said. If you are thinking about what needs to be done at home or how you plan to spend your weekend, you aren't truly focused on what is being said. Your brain should only be concentrating on the information being presented. Also, you should care about what is being said. Whether you are being taught an academic concept, the rules of a class, or a life lesson that may not be used for years to come, the speaker is telling you the information because they believe it is something you should know. Using your brain and heart to listen means that you are ready to hear and take in what is being said.
Whole body listening is giving different parts of your body a specific job so that you are completely focused in on what is being said. It means using parts of your body that the speaker can see, such as the ears, eyes, body, mouth, and hands as well as those the speaker cannot see, like the brain and heart. Whole body listening requires practice and must be taught in order for students to utilize it. Once students understand how to use whole body listening they can answer honestly when you ask them, 'Can you hear me now?'
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