How can listening be part of communication?
Isn't communication about speaking your message?
If no one hears your message, has communication occurred?
Actually, if no one listens to your message, no communication has happened.
I teach my clients over and over again in my domestic violence education program that listening is a skill with discreet steps that can be learned and if you learn those steps, you will reap huge benefits in your personal and professional relationships.
So what are the discrete steps of listening?
1. Make a commitment (thought) to yourself to listen, and then pay attention. And renew the commitment if it fades during the conversation, which takes some self awareness.
2. Repeat the speakers words to your self as they speak, which keeps you from preparing your retort.
3. It the speaker communicates more data than you can hold in your short term memory, ask for permission to repeat back to them a summary.
4. If the answer is yes, then offer your summary, and ask if you are accurate. If the answer is no, you are not accurate, then ask them to repeat the information so you can hear it accurately. This process needs to be repeated until the speaker reports that you have heard them accurately. Remember, you are neither agreeing or disagreeing at this stage of the process, just listening.
5. My mentor in this field, Tony Kubicki, called this giving the gift of attention.
6. Your nonverbal behaviors are attentive while doing this part of the listening communication process, meaning that you are looking at the speaker, maintaining eye contact, offering gestures that encourage the speaker to continue, and so on.
If you put some effort into practicing this listening communication skill, which is actually the basis of what mental health practitioners do, you will see some very interesting results.
People who are very upset, even shouting, will relax and calm down when they are assured that you are going to listen to them.
The loudness is often the only tool the individual has to get themselves heard.
While most people would prefer that you agree with them, the listening is often enough for communication to happen.
If the speaker demands that you agree, then you are not in a conversation, you are in a power and control communication, or a manipulation.
There is no choice being offered, which is the opposite of power and control relationships.
What is frequently not taught in listening communication is the impact that the speakers non-verbal expressions can have on my physiology and my ability to sustain my commitment to listening.
Paul Ekman,Ph. has been studying human facial patterns for a long time, perhaps 25 or 30 years, across cultures and one of the most important aspects of his work for me was then notion that I respond to a look of contempt in 1/25th second, which is about twice as fast as I can blink my eyes.
The usual feeling associated with being on the receiving end of a look of contempt, and the tone of voice associated with it is one of hurt.
That feeling of hurt and/or surprise can get covered with anger in a shorter period of time than it takes for me to blink my eyes, and if I am not careful, I may give up my commitment to listen and enter into a shouting match.
That process might happen even if the speaker is not contemptuous of me. I need to be aware of and making sure that my thinking and physiology are congruent with a commitment to listen, literally heart beat by heart beat.
Is it possible to be aware of the inside of me and the speakers dialogue at the same time?
Probably not at the same time, but in very brief increments, yes, and the good news is that you are already good at doing this.
The bad news is that when you break down in your awareness, you can move your body very rapidly and generate negative consequences too.
What tools can help me learn something about my internal changes and adjust them rather than operate or act from them?
The Dual N Back Task? Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback?
You are probably thinking; "Never heard of them, and probably too complicated for me to learn anyway."
Not true. In fact, they are easy to learn, and once learned they are available on demand.
And the dual n back and heart rate variability have positive side effects too!
One feels good and the other increases IQ. Not sure about you, but bigger is better as far as I am concerned when it comes to IQ, and learning either or both tools will increase your ability to manage the inside of your body fast, so if you find yourself feeling angry, you will know to generate your heart rate variability biofeedback cue thought and relax in less time than it takes for your heart to beat.
The dual n back task is discussed in an excellent e-book called Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D. who are neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
Based on their recommendation I tried the dual n back, and it taught me on my very first trial about how fast my attention wanders, and how inaccurate my short term memory is as a result.
However I have improved with practice, and look forward to maintenance practices now.
The dual n back is suggested for 19 days for 1/2 hour per day.
I have been using heart rate variability biofeedback since 2000, and I have taught it to many people in my practice.
Not only does it help me stay aware of heart beat by heart beat changes in my feelings, but it helps me keep an affiliative and cooperative physiology going, which is geared to connecting behaviors like listening.
Here are tools that I recommend for helping you to be aware of your feelings quickly for rapid adjustment.
Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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