Schools talk often about the importance of community engagement. Fact is, listening is not something educators do particularly well. Standing up in front of classrooms, delivering our message, is where we shine. But when it comes to inviting feedback from parents and students, we too often receive failing grades.
Authentic, two-way communication is an art form of sorts. Before you can truly listen, you have to understand the different ways that your audience processes and receives information. Listening to parents might look completely different from, say, listening to students or teachers. And you need to understand what those conversations look like.
In the short but interesting graphic below, communications consultant Susan Young proposes nine key points that will help you listen to the needs of your school community. The information is slanted toward business leaders, but the lessons ring equally true for the education set, especially as schools look to improve “customer” service.
A few highlights:
We think much faster than we listen.
To close the gap between our brain and our ears, we rely on facial cues and verbal inflections to understand what we’re hearing. In other words, how you express your message is as important as the message itself. Are you putting out the right vibe with your messaging?
Images have staying power.
If the goal is to make a memorable impression, consider expressing yourself through carefully chosen images, maybe with fewer words. You see email marketers do this—and there’s a reason for it; images leave a mental mark. It probably doesn’t help that, according to Young, less than 2 percent of people have any formal listening training. You mean they don’t teach that in school?
If you’re not planning to rise above, don’t bother.
As the graphic shows, your community receives thousands of messages every day, via email, text, social media, face-to-face conversations, or other means. To rise above the noise, you have to show people that you are serious about listening and responding to their concerns.
What steps do you take to effectively listen to your school community? Want some more ideas? Check out Why the Best Leaders Are Good Listeners. If you’re looking to make listening a priority in your school or district, check out Let’s Talk!.