Audio 3.3: Barbara Hanft

Barbara Hanft, a developmental consultant with degrees in occupational therapy and counseling psychology shares advice on communication. She explains the difference between talking and communicating, the importance of listening and responding with your eyes and ears, and developing empathy (running time: 2 min., 38 sec.).


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I have three points that I’d like to make about communication and the first one is that communicating and talking are not one in the same.  Communicating is about connecting with others for a common purpose.  All people’s perspectives are respected as well as there is a sharing of resources and responsibilities.  Picture a collaboration in terms of communication.  Talking on the other hand often lacks this collaborative interaction because people focus too narrowly on informing, on explaining, on instructing, and directing.  Picture a monologue here.  My second point is that communicating blossoms from a give and a take of listening and responding.  People listen with their ears and their eyes.  Think about the verbal message and body language.  About what you hear and what you see.  And when you listen with your ears and your eyes, this leads to developing a sense of empathy for what your partner is saying and what they mean.  And by empathy I mean understanding where a colleague or parent is coming from and what the significance of what he or she is saying about caring for their child or helping that child make it in a classroom, make some friends, and learn to use their language.  My third point has to do with another aspect of listening at the focused level with your eyes and your ears.  When you do so, it helps us to develop empathy and communicate effectively.  There’s been recent neuroscience research that confirms that we have a mechanism called mirror neurons that help us understand other people’s actions as well as their intentions and emotions so that when we’re listening with our ears and our eyes it helps us develop empathy and understand what’s significant to other people and what motivates their actions and interactions.  It leads us to walk a mile in their shoes.  When we can do that, our supports and services can then be meaningful to a particular colleague or family member to help that particular child.