We want to and must lead our live with empathy – our theme for the year. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – a powerful leadership trait in my experience. In an article from Education Week, To Understand Your Students, Use ‘Compassionate Curiosity’, “‘Compassionate curiosity’ is medicinal. It helps build critical trust and connection with our students because it communicates to them that they matter. It is also illuminating. It can interrupt our potential biases and assumptions about our students’ thinking and abilities.” I love the alliteration with the two C’s in Compassionate Currosity, though compassion is concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others whereas empathy is truly understanding and connect with others’ feelings. It is the epitome of being others focused! So, how about empathetic curiosity? Nah, it just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way. It matters not as the spirit of this notion of compassionate curiosity is noble indeed. Redford is spot on when he shares that “Simply listening—really listening—without offering any silver-bullet solutions can work wonders. Demonstrating that I am paying attention and that I care can sometimes be enough to help a student feel seen and want to invest in learning.” Stephen Covey would urge us all to use “empathic listening”. Check out the article from Fast Company called Using Empathic Listening to Collaborate, which focuses on Covey’s Habit 5 – seek first to understand, then to be understood. What I find incredibly interesting that, for me, cements the importance of Habit 5, is Covey’s levels of listening. Here are his five levels of listening:
- Ignoring. The lowest level of listening is called ignoring – not listening at all.
- Pretend Listening
- Selective Listening
- Attentive Listening
- The fifth level of listening is Empathic Listening. Empathic listening is the top level of listening.
With this compassionate curiosity or empathic listening, as Redford states, we can approach a student’s, a colleague’s, a friend’s or a family member’s “struggles like puzzles to solve, rather than problems to react to, makes our instruction more effective. It also makes teaching more rewarding and enjoyable.” As it relates to our Culturally Competent Teaching training, this concept of using curiosity and compassion rather than judgement is powerful. We all tend to judge people and situations too quickly – in an instant. Using compassionate curiosity to develop more care and understanding by exercising curiosity and compassion over judgement. It will make us more powerful solution finders and better human beings. Let us lean into to seeking first to understand, then to be understood by empathically listening first.
Also, feel free to review two previous posts below where I mention this importance of empathetic listening:
- Student Involved Conferences-Leadership & Partnership
- “Change Your Words, Change Your World” – The Power of Words
Want more from the Genius of Covey? View this 17 minute video of him storytelling around the importance of seeking first to understand through empathic listening.