An example of a good listener

Did you ever watch Blue’s Clues? Steve was the best active listener, ever. Watch this video of Steve and notice the cues he’s giving off to show that he’s listening and interested.

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9 Responses

  1. Jeff

    Body language.
    I wonder: do you think that puppetry has made you more keen/aware of body language by having to learn to transmit feelings and emotions through motion and the limited range manipulations with puppets?

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Yes, very much so. Most of what Steve is doing in that clip is what I’d call aggressive movement. It’s not that he’s being combative, but that his movements and body language all move forward. In puppetry, we use aggressive, passive, and regressive movements to communicate how the puppet feels about something.

      An aggressive movement can be turning toward something, leaning toward or actually stepping toward. It’s used for everything from expressing interest to desire to anger.

      Passive is used when the character has little or no opinion. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

      Regressive movements are away from the object. Again, that can be a turn, lean or a step. It can express fear, doubt, revulsion, denial…

      And then there are silhouettes. An open silhouette — like with the arms outstretched, and the head lifted — tends to represent the happier spectrum of emotions. A closed silhouette — like arms crossed — tends to represent the sad end. And you can blend all of these things, too.

      If you throw breath/rhythm in there and Focus then you have a huge, huge range of information you can convey without saying a word.

      When we meet at a con, I’ll walk through this stuff for you, if you’re interested.

      1. Jeff

        We will play then.
        I worked as a recruiter and got very heavily into nonverbal communication. As a joke one evening I was sitting around with some Miami P.D. friends playing a game we later called ‘bar-room profiling.’ My ‘profiling’ rate was scarily accurate. The next week I was on a ride-along with Miami K-9 walking crime scenes. 😉

        Body language is one of those things that people attribute to a gut feeling or a sixth sense when it is really one of our most primitive (and informative) modalities of communication (IMO). I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to people who were in bad situations/relationships that have said, “I should have trusted my gut.” What they were really saying was, “the subconscious signals I was picking up from his/her body language were sending 4th of July level fireworks danger signals — my friends/relatives/counter-intuitive response led me astray from my instincts.”

        Training horses has made me a lot more receptive to body language as well. Darn equines’ English lessons don’t take too well so I have to continually pay attention and monitor my own behaviors based on their body language. While the signals are different— the methods of modifying your own behaviors and the process of ‘tuning in ‘ and becoming more aware are very much the same.

        You’ve caused me to neep!

  2. Julia

    …Seriously, why is that man so utterly *cool*? I would so totally hop in bed with him (and I’m…yeah, not predisposed that way). Especially if he were to listen to my Internet angst and do that right there. And play me a song. And stufffffff.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      People who can genuinely listen are rare. His focus seems so intent on you. Honestly, when you’re in the room with him, he can make you feel like everyone else isn’t there.

  3. David Loftus

    One of the fun things you can get to do as an actor is to present conflicting language modalities: saying one thing with the mouth while much of the body language is communicating the opposite.

    Not so much fun when you’re faced with that in real life. . . .

  4. Kate Baker

    I have to say that I really missed him when he left BC. Not only was his active listening excellent, but there were other facial expressions and movements that spoke louder than words ever could.

    There was one episode where he was talking to the wolf out of “Little Red Riding Hood”, who was dressed in Grandma’s clothing. He executed the perfect subtle, yet incredulous eye roll that made me giggle with glee.

    I would love to meet him one day.

  5. Patti

    I miss him, too! I had the biggest crush on him when my son was little enough to watch the show. Those great big brown eyes! Yes, and the attention stuff is obviously part of it.

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