Active listening is a skill which allows learners to be truly present, set aside their distractions and listen more deeply. Active listening allows one to interpret better what another person is feeling, using verbal and nonverbal cues. In What’s Your Story? for schools, learners explore both verbal and non-verbal techniques for listening.
Belly breathing is also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing.
It gets its name from the way it uses the diaphragm (which lies below the lungs) to expand the lungs and fill them with oxygen. This has the effect of pushing the belly outward. Belly breathing helps to calm and relax the body.
Bias is any opinion that influences a person’s thoughts, feelings or actions. Our biases are often shaped by factors like our upbringing, nationality, culture, values and beliefs. Many of these are not in our control, but we need to be aware of them in order to combat our own biases.
- If someone is biased against women, they might display that bias by hiring a man over a more qualified woman.
- If someone is biased against a certain religion, they might show it through rude or insensitive comments.
Bias is the foundation of stereotypes, prejudice and ultimately discrimination.
Contracting is a process where teachers openly discuss with learners how they want everyone in the class to treat one another. The classroom is a microcosm of the community outside. Both are places where ‘members’ want to be heard and feel valued, nurtured and respected. The classroom should be a space where there is discipline, but also kindness and compassion. In a reflective classroom there is a shared culture and an agreement on how everyone will treat each other. A class contract is an agreed set of rules and behaviours that learners and teachers will observe.
Culture is a word for the 'way of life' of groups of people, meaning the way they do things. It refers to the attitudes, values, morals, goals and customs shared by a society. It is the beliefs and practices that we grow up with. But it is important to remember that culture is not fixed. Over the years, our beliefs and practices change as people and situations change. Some cultural practices can protect people, and other cultural practices can put people at risk.
Try to be sensitive to different learners’ cultural practices. People should feel free to express their views and ideas. But some cultural practices put people at risk, and you must encourage your learners to discuss these. Culture is never a weapon that people should use to promote behaviours that make you feel unsafe or are unhealthy.
Discrimination is behaviour that treats people unequally because of their culture, values, beliefs, ethnicity or race, or group membership.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling – ‘to walk in someone else’s shoes’. We no longer live and work only with people who look the same, speak the same, and think the same as us. We are part of a diverse and exciting world that connects us. If we can empathise, then we can communicate, collaborate and lead better. Empathy is not a simple skill that you can learn in an hour. It’s more like running a marathon, or learning to play a musical instrument. It takes time and practice to get good at it.
Emotional accuracy is the ability to correctly read what another person is feeling. Active listening is not just about hearing what a person says. It is also about what a person shows us. It is in their body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. To be empathetic we need to improve and practice our emotional accuracy. We need to read the small clues a person gives us about how they are feeling, and what does and doesn’t make them feel comfortable.
This means being aware of our emotions and how they affect us and those around us.
All emotions have a part to play in our lives. Emotions can help us feel safe and content. But when we are hijacked by intense emotions, especially unpleasant ones like anger and despair, they can hinder us. These difficult feelings can dictate our thoughts and behaviour and trap us. Emotional regulation helps us to find strategies to express emotions in a way that is appropriate to the context we find ourselves in.
The Moodo Index is designed to help us learn to recognise emotions in ourselves and others, and to develop strategies for regulating (or managing) those emotions. It provides us with a ‘language’ to talk about our feelings.(2)
Our frame is how our experiences, values and beliefs shape the way we view other people. Like you cut and shape a picture to fit into a frame, in a similar way we cut and shape how we see the world depending on what frame we have. By understanding our own values, backgrounds and beliefs we can begin to challenge our own biases.
The FRAME methodology is a tool to help you understand how your background and values shape who you are. This tool helps you ask and listen in an open and non-judgmental way. The acronym stands for the following:
F - Figure out the facts.
R - Reflect on reality. Am I judging someone based on how I view the world, or am I trying to see the world through their eyes?
A - Acknowledge that other people have the right to their own beliefs and values.
M - Maintain an open mind. What can you learn from someone else? What can they learn from you? What do you have in common?
E - Expand your experiences. Try being curious and open to people who are different from you. Get out of your comfort zone. ASK: What's Your Story?
(2) The Centre for the Greater good, Yale University developed this approach.
Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,’ says Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that involves focusing your mind on your experiences. You focus your attention on your own emotions, thoughts and sensations in the present moment. Mindfulness helps one to listen more attentively to someone else’s story in a kind and empathetic way.
A praise poem is a tribute to someone, often to an important person in the community, leader, or politician. In a praise poem, an individual is named, and through bold imagery and careful language their achievements and great qualities are recited and praised for people to hear. In Africa, praise poets have always played an important role in the community. Many have used their poetry to express their opinions, and to influence politics and public opinion
Prejudice means a preconceived opinion or attitude to a person or group of people that is not based on reason or actual experience. Prejudices are often accompanied by ignorance, fear or hatred. A prejudiced person may decide they do not like someone because of their skin colour (this is ‘racial prejudice’), religion (religious prejudice) or nationality (xenophobia). Such prejudices can lead to discrimination, hatred, or even war.
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE TELLING
Private telling is the stories you write or draw that are for yourself only. These stories help you think and understand yourself better. Public telling is the stories that you are happy to share with others.
The Center for Emotional Intelligence at Yale University developed this approach to assist in learning emotional regulation and awareness. The acronym "RULER" stands for the following
R - Recognise emotions in oneself and others.
U - Understand the causes and consequences of emotions.
L - Label or name emotions with a detailed vocabulary.
E - Express emotions in an appropriate and constructive way.
R - Regulate emotions with helpful strategies.
A stereotype is a mistaken idea or belief that many people have about a thing, a person or a group that is based on how they look on the outside, which may be untrue or only partly true. Stereotyping people is a type of prejudice that judges people before you actually know them, based on them belonging to a certain group or nationality. But what one sees on the outside is only ever a small part of who a person is!
Self-awareness means having a clear understanding of who you are: your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations and emotions. Self-awareness allows you to understand other people better, and your attitude and responses to them in the moment.
SBLR: STOP, BREATHE, LISTEN, RESPOND
To be an active listener is to focus completely on the person who is telling their story. This means slowing down and listening with attention, kindness and empathy. SBLR is a tool to help you be a better listener and develop the skill of empathy.
Stop. Stop what you are doing if someone wants to talk to you or share a story with you. It may be a story that they want to tell you, or about an experience that has upset them. Don’t text or listen to music while they are talking. Give them your full attention.
Breathe. Take a deep breath. Breathing helps the body relax so that you can truly focus.
Listen. Allow your friend to share whatever is on their mind. Sometimes we want to give advice or fix their problem for them. But what is most helpful is just to listen. You might say something like ‘tell me more’ to be encouraging.
Respond. When it is the right time to respond, reply in a kind and compassionate way. You can ask them, ‘How do you feel about what is going on?’.
Unconscious bias is often defined as prejudice or unsupported judgments in favour of one thing or person against another. It is bias that is deep inside us, and we may not even be aware that we are showing prejudice. Unconscious bias can introduce unintentional discrimination towards racial groups, nationalities, or even women.
Values are the importance, worth or usefulness of something. We all have ideas about what is right and wrong and important in life. These are our values. Our values are shaped by our religion, culture and experiences. Some people might value honesty more than anything. Others see money or education as being the most important. We shouldn’t force our values onto other people.