“15: Listening,” Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching (1999), 66–67
“15,” Teaching, No Greater Call, 66–67
Listening is an expression of love. It often requires sacrifice. When we truly listen to others, we often give up what we want to say so they can express themselves.
As a teacher, you can do much good by listening. When you listen, you focus your teaching on the needs and interests of individuals. You demonstrate your respect for their ideas, opinions, and experiences. You show that you care about them individually. When they know that their insights are important to you, they are more likely to:
Be receptive and enthusiastic.
Share thoughts and experiences.
Live what they learn.
Some may suppose that listening attentively to one member of a group means ignoring the others and doing them a disservice. This is not so. Listening carefully to one person helps the others know that you care about individuals. And as you listen to family members or class members one at a time, you set an example for others to do the same.
Your careful listening will help you as a teacher. As you listen with love and respect to learners’ comments, you will be able to:
Determine how actively learners are engaged in the learning process.
Determine how much they are learning.
Better understand their needs.
Perceive and remove obstacles that may limit their learning, such as discouragement or preoccupation with other things.
Better understand the questions that trouble them so you can guide them to answers.
Know when to continue with a point that is important to them.
Know when they need an opportunity to speak.
Decide when to repeat specific principles or give more explanation.
Know when to adapt a lesson presentation.
Listening will also bring great benefits to you personally. As you listen to those you teach, you will see that they have much to teach you.
How will those you teach know that you are listening? You can demonstrate that you are listening by displaying an expression of interest. You can look at the speaker rather than at your lesson materials or other things in the room. You can encourage the speaker to complete his or her thoughts without interruption. You can avoid jumping into conversations prematurely with advice or judgments. When you understand what is being said, you can make comments that show your understanding. When you do not understand, you can ask questions.
Consider the following ideas as you strive to increase your ability to listen.
Questions such as the following can show that you care about each individual’s ideas and feelings.
Can you tell me more about that?
How did you feel when that happened?
I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that … ?
Would you explain that to me?
Do not be afraid of silence. People often need time to think about and reply to questions or to express what they are feeling. You might pause after you have asked a question, after a spiritual experience has been shared, or when a person is having difficulty expressing himself or herself. Be sure to give the speaker time to complete his or her thought before you respond. Of course, you should not pause for too long, especially when someone feels uncomfortable or pressured to speak.
Sometimes people have the tendency to think of what they are going to say rather than listen to what others are saying. Make sure you are really concentrating on the speaker rather than planning your response.
People often communicate their feelings by the way they sit, their facial expressions, what they do with their hands, their tone of voice, and the movements of their eyes. These unspoken messages can help you understand the feelings of those you teach.
After listening for spoken and unspoken messages, you may want to restate what you have understood. Summarize the messages in your own words to see if you have understood correctly. After doing this, you may check with the person by asking, “Is that what you were saying?” or “Do we need to talk more about that?” When you do this, be sure that you do not speak in a condescending manner.
Remind learners that listening is one way we show love. The following suggestions may help you encourage learners to listen to one another:
After one person has responded to a question or offered an insight, invite the others to either add to the comment or express a different opinion.
When someone asks a question, redirect it to others rather than answer it yourself. For example, you could ask, “Would anyone care to answer that question?”
In advance, ask one or more people to prepare to summarize the ideas that are shared during a discussion.
The Savior constantly watched and listened to those He taught, adjusting His teaching to the needs He perceived. For example, after teaching the Nephite people, He said, “Go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said” (3 Nephi 17:3). However, just as He was to leave, “he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them” (3 Nephi 17:5). He perceived their needs and stayed longer to minister to them and teach them. As you listen carefully and respond appropriately to those you teach, you can help meet their needs for gospel learning.