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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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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

More Tips on Dealing With Fake People

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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