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Listen and Learn

Listen and Learn

Most people don’t seem to like the sound of their own voice when they hear it played. I always think I sound weird when I hear mine played back. But it's a great way to listen to your own paraverbals.

While living overseas, I taught English as a second language in Saigon. My least favorite class was my “Ernie and Bert” Sunday morning class. Too early, too many kids, and I usually went to bed too late the night before. Thirty screaming kids is not how I wanted to greet the day at eight in the morning after being out with my buddies all Saturday night. After a few weeks of this class, I noticed that my students’ scores were not improving and that they were making little to no progress with their English fluency. So I decided to tape-record the class. My goal was to listen to my students and see if I could find a reason for their poor performance. And then I was humbled.

I was appalled by what I heard coming out of my mouth. I was ashamed. “That can’t be me!” I reasoned to myself. I was listening to this drill sergeant who was yelling at the kids. It pained me to hear my tone of voice and to know how unproductive it was. As my volume increased, so did my cadence. If anything, I realized that I may have been doing more harm than good. That day was a game-changer for me. It was like looking in a mirror and seeing someone you don’t like, except I was hearing someone I didn’t like.

We don’t see ourselves as others see us. We don’t hear ourselves as others hear us. It’s important that we build a virtual mirror and take a look at our body language as we interact with others. It’s essential that we use our Empathic Listening to monitor our paraverbal communication and see how it affects others.

Literally recording or videotaping yourself might be necessary if you really want to take a good, hard look at and listen to what others are seeing and hearing from you. While this may be uncomfortable, it can be a great way to look for areas of improvement.

How about you? Have you ever recorded yourself in any way to get an idea of your communication style? What are the benefits/risks? Is it permissible to record others so they can get an idea of their style? Please offer your comments.

 
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