Advertising
Advertising

Active Listening – How to Truly Listen

Active Listening – How to Truly Listen

Do you believe you are a good listener and do others agree?

If you don’t have that reputation, it’s not your fault: your brain is designed to predict what other people are going to say next. You are often so busy listening to your brain’s plotting and planning that you can’t hear what the other person is saying.

Advertising

A study conducted at Princeton University found that “speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication”. If that was so much Greek to you, let’s state it more simply: when your brain starts acting like your conversational companion’s brain, you actually communicate. You won’t be surprised to hear that the study found there is generally a lag between what you hear and what you understand, and this is where we get into trouble. In the midst of that lag, we start predicting and supposing and guessing. Too often, we are still caught up in our own reverie as our conversation partner continues talking. The good doctors at Princeton would say that our brain activities decouple at that point and that as a result comprehension starts to plummet. This is the scientist’s way of saying, “You’re not listening.”

Training Your Pet Brain

The good news is that your brain works for you: rather than letting it just do what it’s programmed to do automatically, you can train it to do new tasks. The brain is the best pet you could ever hope forit can be taught all kinds of tricks, and it loves to please its master. The trick to teaching your pet brain is concentration. Many folks find concentration to be taxing but that is because they approach it in the wrong way. While you can make yourself concentrate, sooner or later you will tire out and your brain will go back on autopilot. The result will be “neural decoupling”that is, your brain will wander off on its own.

Advertising

Concentration is more properly approached passively rather than actively. Don’t make yourself concentrate; allow yourself to concentrate. Just hear what is said, observe the nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language, absorb the tone and the pace of their speech. If you find you are distracted by other stimuli or by your own thoughts, be gentle with yourself. Just guide yourself back to hearing with no self-judgment. In fact, recognize that self-judgment itself is just another distracting thought. You will find with practice that these wanderings become less frequent.

When you first attempt this, you will notice that you respond less quickly in conversation. People may not be used to you being this contemplative, so give them the chance to get used to it. Your responses will be more in tune with them, and everybody likes “in tune” better than “out of tune”. In short, they will feel heard by you like they have never felt it before.

Advertising

Brain Pattern Alignment

If you do this, something fascinating happens, according to the doctors at Princeton. They did fMRI brain scans of the participants in their study and found that people’s brain wave patterns started to align as people actually listened. Not only did the lag between hearing and understanding vanish but the listeners started to anticipate what the other person was about to say before they said it. This is not the same as your autopilot guesses; instead, what they found is your brain pattern actually starts to match that of your partner in real time. When that happens, a strong connection occurs, understanding deepens between you, and real communication takes place.

When you as the listener find yourself in the same state at the talker, you tend to move in tandem. People get a real charge out of being understood, so it is very much worth your effort to seek such an alignment. There is the practical benefit of receiving information as its imparter meant it to be received and additionally there is also an emotional connection that takes place. Even in mere business or transactional settings, there is value to such an emotional connection as it fosters trust and comfort. As a result, people believe in your sincerity and genuineness, which eases relations and lessens conflict.

Advertising

Your brain may not be so good at listening but that doesn’t mean you can’t be. Let it know who the boss is, and earn the reputation of being a good listener.

More by this author

Recognizing the Distinction Between Blame and Responsibility Active Listening – How to Truly Listen Do You Have a Big Mission? The Difference Between Dreaming and Having Vision Is Time Your Friend or Your Enemy?

Trending in Communication

1 10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear 2 The Lifehack Show Episode 3: Why Validation is Key to Lasting Relationships 3 How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Best Version of You 4 How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life) 5 7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 18, 2019

10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear

10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Overcome Your Fear

The ability to take risks by stepping outside your comfort zone is the primary way by which we grow. But we are often afraid to take that first step.

In truth, comfort zones are not really about comfort, they are about fear. Break the chains of fear to get outside. Once you do, you will learn to enjoy the process of taking risks and growing in the process.

Here are 10 ways to help you step out of your comfort zone and get closer to success.

1. Become Aware of What’s Outside of Your Comfort Zone

What are the things that you believe are worth doing but, are afraid of doing yourself because of the potential for disappointment or failure?

Draw a circle and write those things down outside the circle. This process will not only allow you to clearly identify your discomforts but, your comforts. Write identified comforts inside the circle.

2. Become Clear About What You Are Aiming to Overcome

Take the list of discomforts and go deeper. Remember, the primary emotion you are trying to overcome is fear.

Advertising

How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be very specific.

Are you afraid of walking up to people and introducing yourself in social situations? Why? Is it because you are insecure about the sound of your voice? Are you insecure about your look? Or, are you afraid of being ignored?

3. Get Comfortable with Discomfort

One way to get outside of your comfort zone is to literally expand it. Make it a goal to avoid running away from discomfort.

Let’s stay with the theme of meeting people in social settings. If you start feeling a little panicked when talking to someone you’ve just met, try to stay with it a little longer than you normally would before retreating to comfort. If you stay long enough and practice often enough, it will start to become less uncomfortable.

4. See Failure as a Teacher

Many of us are so afraid of failure that we would rather do nothing than take a shot at our dreams.

Begin to treat failure as a teacher. What did you learn from the experience? How can you take that lesson to your next adventure to increase your chance of success?

Advertising

Many highly successful people failed plenty of times before they succeeded. Here’re some examples:

10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

5. Take Baby Steps

Don’t try to jump outside your comfort zone, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in.

Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.

Take a look at this article on how you can start taking baby steps:

The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

Advertising

6. Hang out with Risk Takers

There is no substitute for this step. If you want to become better at something, you must start hanging out with the people who are doing what you want to do and start emulating them. Almost inevitably, their influence will start to have an effect on your behavior.

Here’re 8 Reasons Why Risk Takers Are More Likely To Be Successful.

7. Be Honest with Yourself When You Are Trying to Make Excuses

Don’t say “Oh, I just don’t have the time for this right now.” Instead, be honest and say “I am afraid to do this.”

Don’t make excuses, just be honest. You will be in a better place to confront what is truly bothering you and increase your chance of moving forward.

8. Identify How Stepping out Will Benefit You

What will the ability to engage in public speaking do for your personal and professional growth? Keep these potential benefits in mind as motivations to push through fear.

9. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Learn to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Risk taking will inevitably involve failure and setbacks that will sometimes make you look foolish to others. Be happy to roll with the punches when others poke fun.

Advertising

If you aren’t convinced yet, check out these 6 Reasons Not to Take Life So Seriously.

10. Focus on the Fun

Enjoy the process of stepping outside your safe boundaries. Enjoy the fun of discovering things about yourself that you may not have been aware of previously.

Final Thoughts

It will seem really scary at first to get out of your comfort zone. But as I said, you don’t need to jump right out of your comfort zone at once, you can take baby steps gradually.

As you slowly push past your comfort zone, you’ll feel more and more at ease about the new stuff which seemed so dangerous to you.

Take the first step and I’m sure you’ll make it!

More About Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Read Next