The #Power of #listening with your #heart, Giving voice for #Equity and #Inclusion with Dr. Teri Varner

What does it mean to listen with your heart, not just your head? And how does this help us work at a deeper level with diversity, equity and inclusivity so that we can impact real change? 

Dr. Teri Varner is an academic visionary with garnered experience in teaching, mentorship, and curriculum development to meet specific educational goals. A decorated educator with demonstrated expertise in communication theory, nonverbal communication, public speaking, and active listening. 

She is an Associate Professor of Communication at St. Edward’s University (Austin, TX). She holds a Ph.D. in Communication with an emphasis in Performance Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Her ethnographic qualitative research interests range from women of color in American higher education to hair/body politics to increase the amount of classroom instruction devoted to teaching students how to actively listen in the 21st century. Dr. Varner is an active member of the National Communication Association (NCA) the International Listening Association (ILA) and Southern States Communication Association (SSCA). Her current research examines metacognitive listening strategies and takes a qualitative look at strategies that United States American students report using before, during, and after a listening event. 

In this episode, Teri shares how when we are given an opportunity to use our voice, we can use it in its full capacity, to help each other, to speak up for what is right and just. She highlights how we need to give listening the time and space necessary to dig deep into where the other person is coming from for deeper understanding.


“What’s important to me is that I would rather risk you thinking…there’s something wrong with me…because I’ve asked you so many times. I am more concerned about getting it right than being embarrassed that I’m getting it wrong.” – Teri Varner


Listen IN Notes:

01:10 – Teri remembers when she experienced the power of listening in a circle of women from all across the world. The key component was this idea of listening not just with your head, but really listening with your heart.

04:53 – As a newbie experiencing the listening workshop for the first time, with other women talking about what it’s like to be from a marginalized community where people are often dismissive. She was amazed about our capacity as human beings to be sympathetic and empathetic.

06:37 – What is this 99/1 rule as coined by Dr. Carol McCall?

08:34 – On being a university chair for three years at St. Edward’s University, the first African American department chair.

10:34 – Lessons she learned from being a university chair: expect the unexpected.

16:49 – Looking at listening in relation to action: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

22:16 – Why it takes so long for diversity, equity, and inclusion to take its roots.

25:39 – How to allow space and time for listening: When it comes to listening, being authentic — making sure that there’s time for you to listen.

30:38 – Teri’s mantra to make sure she’s giving time and space for listening: You have my undivided attention

32:13 – How to know when you have a full understanding after listening?

37:22 – Helping others understand: “I am asking you to repeat something because I want to understand fully. That’s the strength. That’s courage.“

44:39 – Finding one’s voice through listening: The power of lecturing with a microphone. Becoming more conscious, cognizant of how her voice is resonating throughout the room and with her students. It has made her think about what she will say next.

48:39 – How taking time to listen to our voice helps.

52:39 – Talking about the speech which was authentic, sincere, and with power that she gave when she received an educator award: “When I wrote the speech, I wrote it thinking that if I never had another opportunity to address this group of people, this is what I would want to say.”

55:02 – Teri’s final words: Speaking truth to empower

Key Takeaways:

“What is this 99/1 rule? …99% of what they are talking about that might be causing you what your perceived as harm, or is making you angry is 99% about them. And only 1% is you. And you just happened to show up.” – Teri Varner

 “Sometimes it may not be enough these days just to listen when we say that we have a background in listening; it might also be that there are times when as a result of listening, we really need to be proactive.” – Teri Varner

“To be both reaffirming of diversity, equity and inclusion, we want to include everyone, but still, celebrate our uniqueness and the challenges in between.” – Teri Varner

“Empowered listening is about knowing that you are devoting your energies to simply showing up for that person and not focusing on anything else other than what that person is sharing with you.” – Teri Varner

“If you don’t understand what somebody has said, don’t pretend, don’t make it up. Just ask for help.” – Teri Varner

“When I decide that I’m going to take ownership and have control over the quality of the sound of my voice, then giving speeches or making presentations might not seem as daunting as it would have otherwise.” – Teri Varner

“If you have a voice, make sure that you use it to its full potential.” – Teri Varner


People/Resources Mentioned:


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