What is Whole Body Listening?

Instructor: Shannon Orr
In this lesson, we will define and discuss whole body listening. We will learn how to listen with our whole body. We will also learn what parts of our bodies are required in order to use whole body listening.

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.

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