“Communication is the most important skill in life. We spend most of our waking hours communicating. But consider this: You’ve spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have you had that enables you to listen so that you really, deeply understand another human being from that individual’s own frame of reference?” 

— Stephen Covey

This Buzz from the Hub focuses on the importance of having and continuously strengthening the “people skills” that we as Parent Centers bring to our work with families and others. Skills such as active listening and questioning play a vital role in our ability to establish rapport and create a safe space where parents and others can share their questions and concerns. The truth is, there is nothing “soft” about the skills involved in assisting families in ways that are welcoming, validating, respectful, and bond-building.

With that in mind, we offer the resources below as tools and approaches to keep in mind as you interact with the parents, family members, and professionals who come to your Center for information, training, and understanding.

Our best to you all,
The CPIR Team | Debra, Debi, Lisa, Jessica, and Myriam


Active Listening and Effective Questioning
When a family or professional first contacts your Center, you have to gather information about why. What issue or concern brings them to you? What type of help are they looking for? While many newcomers can answer insightfully, many others are not sure what to ask or what kind of assistance is needed. Often, you have to tease this information out of them, which is where skillful listening and questioning come in. This 8-page PDF provides lots of information about both, as well as useful examples.

Become a Better Listener: Active Listening
This article includes a lot of information immediately useful to Parent Center staff working directly with families. Individual sections focus on 13 steps to better active listening skills, 7 communication blockers, 5 simple conversation courtesies, and the art of questioning.

Interpersonal Skills
This article gives an overview of interpersonal skills and discusses how you can strengthen yours. The article explores listening and speaking skills in particular and looks at barriers to effective interpersonal communication. There’s a free self-assessment tool that can give you valuable feedback on the quality of your own listening skills, verbal communication, emotional intelligence, and ability to work in groups.

School-Age Family Engagement | Online Module
This online, 5-part module is all about how family-centered practice, strong family engagement, and effective communication contribute to high-quality school-age programs. The module includes sections that focus on strategies for working with and strengthening families of children with special needs, military families, and families facing challenges.

We Have to Talk: A Step-By-Step Checklist for Difficult Conversations
This article gives a brief synopsis of best practice strategies: a checklist of action items to think about before going into a difficult conversation; some useful concepts to practice during the conversation; and some tips and suggestions to help you stay focused and flowing in general, including possible conversation openings.

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The CPIR hopes that you’ve found useful and relevant resources listed in this month’s Buzz from the Hub. Please feel free to write to the editor, Lisa Küpper, at lkupper@fhi360.org to suggest the types of resources you’d like to see in the future. CPIR is listening! Your input is extremely valuable to helping us to craft newsletters that support your work with families.

Debra, Debi, Myriam, Jessica, and Lisa
The CPIR Team


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Publication of this eNewsletter is made possible through Cooperative Agreement H328R130014 between OSEP and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN). The contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government or by the Center for Parent Information and Resources.