Listening is Kindness – By Toria Bono
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway
Do you listen? I mean, do you really listen to another person without becoming distracted?
I think this is one of the hardest things to do as, all too often, our thoughts take over. We start thinking about what we should say next, how we should respond, and that job that we completely forgot to do. Now you may be reading this and not have that issue, but I have certainly had to work on listening and truly hearing what is being said to me. Why? Because I want to be a kind person, and I think listening is intrinsically linked with kindness.
I was raised in a house where we didn’t listen to one another. Now, I don’t think this was anyone’s fault, we were navigating our own lives and, more often than not, were caught up in our own thoughts. I only learned how poorly I listened when I met my husband. He used to ask me if he had interrupted the beginning of my sentence with the middle of his – it took me a while to figure out what he meant. Then the penny dropped. I always had to share a thought about what he was saying, a relatable comment or a supportive statement, all of which I genuinely thought were kind things to do, but in reality, I was butting in and not listening. In striving to be kind, I was actually achieving the opposite.
I want to tell you that this moment of clarity meant that I changed my ways immediately, started listening and became kind, but it has been a slow process. Some people are great listeners, and I genuinely feel heard by them. You know the sort of people I mean – they look at you, don’t interrupt, and allow space in the conversation. They allow you to muddle your way through your thoughts without feeling the need to give solutions or answers. They are the people who aren’t trying to fix and sort, but rather they sit and support. Nancy Kline talks a great deal about being this sort of listener in her books, and they truly are well worth a read. Over the years, I have worked hard to listen more actively and be, what I call, a kind listener – someone who tries hard to fully engage with what the other person is saying and give them the space to say it.
I am a teacher, and over the years, I have sat in many meetings and listened to hundreds of educators speaking, and I have noticed a few things. Firstly, the louder voices get listened to, and their ideas are often run with. Secondly, the quieter voices either don’t get heard or don’t speak up. This means that their ideas don’t end up seeing the light of day, however great they might be. I have seen the same happen in the classroom with the children. Louder voices get heard, and quieter voices get quieter.
In 2020, I created the Tiny Voice Talks podcast to ensure that those quieter voices in education were given the space they needed to talk and be heard. I didn’t know what to expect when I invited the educational ‘tiny’ voices to come on and share their passion for education with me – I didn’t know if anyone would come on, but they did, and I have learnt so much from each and every one of them. I have learnt all sorts about education, but I have learnt even more about listening and how much I love hearing what others say. So much so that I decided I wanted to spend more time listening.
In October 2021, I embarked on an apprenticeship in coaching and mentoring alongside a level 5 diploma in coaching. In January 2022, I started coaching. Now, I should say that I was introduced to coaching by John Magee, who you all know only too well. He became my coach at the end of 2020 and gave me that space I described above. He listened, truly listened, and his kindness and phenomenal coaching skills enabled me to find my own answers. I wanted to do this for others, so I started the course.
I love coaching, and a sense of peace comes over me when I am just listening to my coachees talk; what is amazing is that I don’t butt in. I listen, reflect and ask questions, but I don’t advise, share my point of view or try to think of something witty to say – the conversation is not about me. A few times, I have been told that I am a good listener and have appreciated that, although I have wondered if my husband would agree.
I will end by sharing this quote with you:
“Emma felt that she could not now show greater kindness than in listening.” Jane Austen
Listening to another is a gift. It shows genuine interest in the person speaking and what they have to say. So as you go through your day, see if others listen to you and see if you listen to others. Can I ask one favour of you both, though? Could each of you listen to the tiny voices that you may bump into and really let them know that you care about what they have to say.
Thank you for showing me kindness by reading my blog.
Toria Bono is a primary teacher who has worked in many different roles over the last 21 years. She is also the host of the podcast Tiny Voice Talks and helps tiny voices to come together on Twitter through her Tuesday thread #TinyVoiceTalks – find her pinned tweet.
If you want to have your voice heard on the Tiny Voice Talks podcast, get in touch with Toria – links below.
Website – www.tinyvoicetalks.com
Tiny Voice Talks podcast on Apple
Tiny Voice Talks podcast on other platforms
Email – email@example.com
Twitter – @toriaclaire
Facebook – Tiny Voice Talks
Instagram – Tiny Voice Talks
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