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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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