Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

If I’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s the power of listening.

I’m constantly working on being a better listener, myself, but in this reflection, I want to zoom out for just a moment…

Whether it be amidst a global pandemic, demonstrations of civil unrest, an election season vehemently vile with vitriol, casual conversations with a group of friends, or even a few private moments with your partner, listening has never been more needed, more crucial, and more critical to our health.

Have you ever been in a meeting where there’s [at least] two people talking at the same time? And maybe multiple times? In my experience, exchanges like that usually don’t end well. They’re not productive. Learning opportunities are lost. And I’m wondering if those interactions actually do more harm than good?

Perhaps, we can agree to pre-meeting norms where “only one person speaks at a time.” Perhaps, we could employ “the talking stick.” Perhaps, we could position chairs in a circle.

Perhaps, we might not always need these mechanisms to have civil conversations… as professionals, adults, and fellow humans.

When two people talk at the same time, it’s neither people nor talk.

It’s just noise.

For someone to speak, to feel heard, and to feel valued–there has to be someone else present to do the listening in order to validate the speaker and the speaker’s words.

Without a listener, there is no speaker.

Listeners add value to speakers by validating their sense of self and their sense of belonging to a shared space or community.

But what I’m really wondering is if we’ve now entered a space from which there is no return. Are the days of civil discourse done?

Is everyone speaking at the same time?

Is anyone listening?

In several twitter chats, inclusion activities, and professional learning sessions in recent months, I’ve been asked a popular question that went something like this:

What’s one item that represents pandemic times for you, and why?

I love sharing mine, as it’s become very meaningful to me.

In the summer of 2018, I was just beginning my MSA journey. With a newborn, I just couldn’t get any work done from home.

I invested in some really good earbuds. I needed them to get work done at various coffee shops and restaurants.

Best. Investment. Ever.

Here are some things I’ve noticed about my earbuds:

  • They come in a small, chargeable, egg-shaped case with rounded edges.
  • The case fits perfectly in a closed fist, in my pocket, and in my favorite bookbag compartment. It’s almost like it’s a part of me.
  • I put the earbuds directly in my ears, maximizing potential for meaningful hearing while minimizing all the noise around me.
  • With an app on my phone, I can toggle “ambient sound” on/off. I can opt in for the advanced “seamless earbud connection.”
  • Distractions aside, I’m ready to do the action verb of listening.
  • I want to listen to one person speak at a time.
  • While I physically hear sounds, I want to actively listen to hear people.
  • I want others to feel heard and valued.
  • I want to validate others’ sense of self and sense of belonging.
  • I take my earbuds with me everywhere. Out the door, it’s now “grab keys, wallet, phone…. and earbuds.” The listening devices are high priority.
  • My earbuds have become a constant reminder to me to continually work on becoming a better listener.

Throughout my journey so far I’ve been grateful to make meaningful connections with others. Learning alongside all y’all means the world to me.

Thank you!

What I came to learn in 2020, however, was just how much I valued you and our connections, and how you continue to transform my life.

Thank you!

More than ever, we need each other.

More than ever, now is a time to listen.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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