Use Continuers to Improve Listening

The year 2020 has begun, and I’ve chosen pause as my OLW (One Little Word) for the year.  Part of working on pausing for me is going to be working on listening.  I am a person who leans in to what people are saying, and I’m a person who wants to listen well, but I’m a person who often jumps in before people are really finished talking.  It’s a very, very bad habit.  I’m going to try to break this habit in 2020. I’m going to try to push pause when I feel myself starting to jump in (and often over) what people are saying.

I’ve been reading up on listening.  Not surprisingly, I found some tips in a book on student talk.  If we want people to talk well, it certainly makes sense that we have to listen well!  The book I’m studying is Unlocking the Power of Classroom Talk, written by Katy Wischow and Shana Frazin (I’m lucky to have Shana as our school’s TC Staff Developer this year!). In this text, the authors write about strategies to help students use talk to clarify.  One of the strategies is to teach kids to say, “Say more about that.”  In explaining how and why this strategy works, Katy and Shana discuss a research study that was done to improve doctor/patient relationships.  Some of the surveys in this study showed that patients are often dissatisfied with doctors’ ability to listen. The suggestion (referred to as a “surefire method”) from Dr. Howard Beckman, medical director of the Rochester Independent Practice Association, was to use what he called continuers. Beckman encouraged doctors to say “uh huh” three times while listening to a patient.  In an example given in the text, a doctor tried this, and each time he said “uh huh” the patient gave more (and very important) information about his symptoms.

I plan to push pause and use a few continuers with students and adults. I’ll see if this helps me to listen more and talk less.  I’ll try saying “uh huh” or “hmmmm” or “Tell me more” three times and see if people say more.  I think it’s more realistic for me than trying to stay completely silent while people talk.  I think it will feel more authentic and show that I am listening and that I am interested, but I’m hoping it will keep me from jumping in too quickly.

Here’s to pushing pause in an effort to be a better listener in 2020. Wish me luck!


6 thoughts on “Use Continuers to Improve Listening”

  1. I sat down to write today and saw that you wrote about listening…which was also my plan for today! I didn’t read your post until I was done writing. I wanted to tell you about the book I used and wrote about in my post. It felt perfect for your OLW goals. I like this strategy you’ve shared here. I’m going to try this too!

  2. You’re already off to a great start with this word by doing some research. I think this is perfect to work on with students and with adults, in a school setting and at a dinner table. Good luck!

  3. Your slice and Jess’s have a similar theme! Reading them back to back! Your one little word has three words of implementation — uh huh, hmmm, and tell me more. I think you could write those on a post it and stick them on your id badge – constant reminder that those are your go to words! You can do it! I have to carry a journal and write what people say so I, myself, shut up, listen, and think!

    1. I love your idea of sticking these words somewhere! Maybe I should write them in a journal, and just stare at them when others are talking…..or tattoo them on myself! This is really hard for me. I guess that’s the whole point of a goal. Thank you for your encouragement! I need it!

  4. I need this post in my back pocket because I do the same thing, and I’m always annoyed with myself. I’ll take that challenge of habit breaking this year! Lean forward, listen hard, and keep my mouth shut! Love Shana and Katy’s book!

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