Are you having trouble listening with understanding and empathy (one of the Habits of Mind) when you are not face to face with the other person–on facebook, Google+, twitter, or other social networks? As an educator, staying in touch with your professional learning network digitally is a boon to the quantity of communication, but without the proper habits, you may not be reaping the quality you might.
Inspired by the thinking from my work with Art Costa at the Institute for the Habits of Mind, here are some tips:
Do you find it hard to manage your impulsivity? Do you want to just respond, like, or share and get it done to move on to the next task? This diminishes the quality and substance of your interactions. As you pause, prioritize the messages that you value most and send them in an order that allows you to invest the appropriate focus on each one.
We are all captive to this experience so when you find yourself engaged in an important issue with someone else–on another network, or in person, minimize the browser window, or even get up from the computer altogether to help shift cognitive “maps,” then return to the computer when you have some time. This would be equivalent to the pause button that we use when we are engaged with someone face to face.
It is often the case that we think we understand what another person is saying and we jump to conclusions without checking to see if we truly understand. Paraphrasing is a very useful tool when in a web based conference. For example, when there are many people communicating at once–in-person, on a conference call, or even on a social media platform–it helps to paraphrase what you understand are the key points.
At the same time, you are helping to summarize and make sense out of the multiple perspectives, an important thinking and communication skill. This also reduces the temptation to simply get your .02 in without respecting the topic or purpose of others involved in the communication.
Good questions serve to clarify as well as extend the communication and the thinking. Especially with social learning, good questions are the start for good feedback. Probing what the other is saying shows respect for the other person’s thinking, and a curiosity about how that thinking might influence yours.
Why is this so important? Most people are living at least one half of their professional life in social learning or communication of one sort or another.
How do you use–or fail to use–thinking and communication habits (Habits of Mind, for example) as a guide for making your work in education meaningful?