In Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives, Peter Johnston suggests a technique for teachers to use that is meant to help students listen better, become more socially aware, and possibly more empathetic towards other students’ viewpoints.

Johnston describes a situation where he watched students discussing their ideas about a question with a partner. The students were then asked to tell their teacher what their partner thought about the question. In many cases, the children could not say what their partner thought because they were thinking only about what they wanted to say. Their teacher then sent them back to their partner to find out the answer. In this way, students were encouraged to really hear and understand what their peer had to say.

I wonder whether this would work in other situations such as when siblings get into an argument about something. Your daughter often complains to you about what her brother is doing. You could ask, “What does your brother think about that? Why is he doing it?” You could then encourage her to find out from him why he was doing it. They might even have a conversation about it that leads to resolving their differences without parental involvement.

The technique of asking children to truly understand what another person thinks by listening and asking questions can be a powerful tool that leads to better communication, greater empathy, and the ability to listen intently to another person. These social skills are extremely important and lead to success in school and later on the job.

 

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