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The Graceful Act of Listening
May 10, 2023
To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.
-Betsy Sanders, Executive

“Sometimes you may find it necessary to be still, or be quiet, and listen while in a group situation. Some may interpret this as you're not contributing to the meeting; however, in reality, you are conducting yourself in the manner that allows you to be most productive. Have you ever experienced a meeting discussion where some of the attendees are intimidated or afraid to share their thoughts? Or a meeting where one or two people take over the conversation? The graceful act of listening to what is being communicated by others and then sharing your thoughts on the subject at hand is an act of leadership and says to others, especially if there are subordinates in the discussion, that what they have to say is as valued as the thoughts of others at the table." writes Ann Terrell in her 2018 book, The Graceful Art of Leadership in Early Childhood.

Terrell has been a guide, mentor, advocate, and supporter of countless teachers and leaders throughout her journey and will lead the next conversation in the Reimagining Our Work series, a chance to meet and dialog with curious colleagues. Mark your calendars for one week from today to join this very special ROW event, Wednesday May 17th from 7:00-8:30 pm US Eastern (New York) time.


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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · May 15, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

Francis, I do think Terrell addresses your first point - by establishing a practice of listening - thoughtful listening - leaders establish the climate (political and otherwise) that makes it safe to listen. As for your second point, I've observed so many cultural differences in how and how much to participate. Again, Terrell's advice to leaders on listening serves well. And it takes extra effort to then gracefully intervene when one or more people dominate, and to notice and make space for voices that express non-dominant views.

Francis Wardle · May 10, 2023
University of Phoenix/ Red Rocks Community College
Denver, Colorado, United States

I think this is good advice. However, two questions need to be addressed. First, why do some people not feel comfortable expressing their feelings? I remember participating in several meetings where I vocally expressed an unpopular point-of-view. After these meetings several participants congratulated on my statements, and explicitly said, "we wanted to say the same thing, but politically could not". (Many are aware from experience just how political the ECE field is). The second question to be addressed is why some people appear to dominate meetings (or are perceived to dominate them). In over 90% of the meetings that I have attended during my career, I was the only male participant. As such I felt a responsibility to express certain viewpoints that otherwise would not have been addressed. Many viewed this as "taking over" the meeting.

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