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Become a Great Listener
January 16, 2020
Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
-Mary Oliver
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Recently the Brain Pickings website ran a “From the Archives” re-run of an article called “Erich Fromm’s 6 Rules of Listening: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist on the Art of Unselfish Understanding.” Here’s Fromm on what it takes to be a great listener:

  1. “The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.”

And in the popular book, Really Seeing Children, author Deb Curtis reminds us that one way to be a great “listener” with children is to be a great observer. (Sometimes we need to “listen” with our eyes.) Curtis writes:

“Seeing the significance of what toddlers do requires that I notice the small details that reflect the ideas going on beneath a child’s actions. When I study their experiences, I see that almost everything they do has an important purpose or question – an idea they are pursuing. Cultivating my observation skills is the most useful way to begin to see, value and extend children’s ideas.”

Source: Erich Fromm’s 6 Rules of Listening: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist on the Art of Unselfish Understanding





Really Seeing Children

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Deb Curtis, in her more than 40 years as an early childhood educator, has cultivated a reflective teaching practice devoted to really seeing children.

Through her collection of stories and photographs, learn to suspend your adult agenda to really see children's perspectives and the amazing ways they experience the world. Taking up this practice will bring joy and deeper understanding to your work and life and allow you to engage with children in a more meaningful teaching and learning process.

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