Struggling Communication, Psychology of Active Listening can help you

human mind - a concept design
Psychology of active listening

Are you struggling with your communication skills? Is it keeping you from gaining a promotion at work or a better quality relationship? Then, the psychology of communication, mind mapping and active listening can really help your cause. Lazy to Active Listening can empower you!

To understand better, some insight into the psychology of mind mapping is needed. We need to understand how our brains mind map and then relate that to our own psychology in order to understand why “Lazy Listening” plays an important role in poor communication.

Lazy listening actually triggers automated mind mapping mechanisms of the Reptilian and Limbic Brains. You’re not in control……hmmm. Danger zone!

Let’s talk about how that happens. You need to understand our 3 different brains and how they process information.
This is empowering!
Humans have 3 brains.

  1. The Reptilian Brain- the reactive (mind mapped) instinctual brain.
  2. The Limbic Brain rests on top of the Reptilian brain. It’s our emotional mind mapping patterns brain.
  3. The Neo-Cortex sits on top the Limbic brain- our rational brain. (Does not fully mature until the age of 7-8 years)
    1. This means our development years are all survival (reactive) and revolves around emotional brain mind mapping patterns. Reactive and emotional neural mind mapping patterns become deeply ingrained prior to our ability to rationalize. Think about that!

So to the point? Why is it important to remove lazy listening from your psychology? Lots of great reasons. Listening is a skill that is a shortage and in demand. People that practice active listening are:

  1. More effective and productive
  2. Have more chances to influence others and gain advancement
  • Develop trust, respect and rapport with others
  1. Are considered better leaders and team members.
  2. Make better customer service representatives
  3. Are persuasive and are better negotiators
  • Avoid misunderstandings

Facts are (Adler, R Rosenfeld L Proctor, R 2001)

  • 70% of our day communicating.
    • 45% Listening
    • 30% Speaking
    • 16% Reading
    • 9% Writing

Listening is not the same are hearing,“I hear ya” But do you really?

Active listening requires effort:

  • Stop talking, don’t think about your rebuttal, make eye contact, focus, remove distraction and prepare yourself to listen.
  • Relax, breathe, put the speaker at ease and give them your attention
    • Nod, gesture, lean inward, make eye contact, paraphrase
  • Empathize, understand their perspective, be open-minded, impartial, suspend judgement, do not jump to conclusions.
  • Listen for ideas, themes, threads of conversation, the story. Watch for non-verbal gestures: facial expressions, body gestures and eye movement. What is not being said is just as important.
  • Listen for tone, emotion, verbal and non-verbal clues.

Listening requires MORE than the sense of hearing.

Barriers to listening:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Impatience
  • Lack of sleep
  • Distraction
  • Short attention span
  • Limbic Brain: emotional pattern recognition
  • Limbic Brain: reactive

Learning how to dis-engage the mind mapping Limbic Brain. Slowing down your thinking processes by active listening allows time for the Neo-Cortex to engage. Allow time to focus on what is being said without engaging your emotional mind mapping pattern recognition process. Breathe, focus, remove distraction and be impartial.

By being impartial you have a better opportunity to detach an emotional mind map pattern of the Limbic brain. It is your choice to attach an emotion to an event or a story. It’s NOT your story. It is THEIR story.

By allowing them to tell their story, without you engaging your personal emotional neural pattern, you will keep your heart rate steady. You will also be able to think with your Neo-cortex brain about what is being said rather than becoming emotionally engaged.

The brain has the capacity to think 600% faster than most people talk. The brain is going a mile-a-minute in the background. While someone else is talking, your brain runs all types of “what-if” scenarios and rebuttals. Examples: “I had the same experiences… let me tell you mine…… let ME talk.” Or you may be thinking about how long till you pick up the kids, or what’s for dinner instead of actively listening to what is being said. Considering you will only retain 25-50% OF WHAT is being said, give it your best shot!

Stop the chatter and learn “active listening” skills. Stop reacting!

When we engage emotionally, we make assumptions, (ingrained emotional neural patterns of the Limbic Brain) judgmental opinions or rebuttals, rather than allowing ourselves to engage in slow, open minded rational thought.

Quick responses are more likely to be reactive or emotionally biased and don’t fare well in any situation. Over-reaction adds stress.

So step back, listen fully, respectfully and respond with an inquisitive mind.

Active Listening TIPS:

  1. I use a little tool: I pinch my thumb and for-finger together, signalling my brain that I am now paying attention to what is being said. I lean in and make eye contact.
    1. It is a small physical signal that sets me into the “mode” of listening. It becomes automated. If you catch yourself drifting, then paraphrase; ‘get back on track; make sure you are following the thread.’

Repeat the pressure of thumb and forefinger, lean in, make eye contact, paraphrase and focus.

  1. Be inquisitive! By being interested, you train your brain to actively listen to what is being said.
  2. By clarifying that you truly understood what is being said, you can engage the brain in a different pattern of thinking, which creates new neural pathways. It shows respect, builds trust and rapport with others.
    1. “I’m curious; are you saying…..” I am not sure I understood, can you give me an example?”
  3. Don’t interrupt! When we become excited or emotionally engaged, we have a tendency to interrupt. You will always learn more by listening than by talking.
  4. Remember, it is not “your” story, it is theirs, so try not to high-jack it!! When you attach an emotion to an event, you make it YOUR story. It is not YOUR story.
    1. An emotional response is simply a recognition of 3 points of a similar story. An emotional patterns, often deeply ingrained in our Limbic Brain before the age of 8, is engaged. As you know, assumptions are quite often wrong, 8 –year- old’s emotional patterns, brought forward by the Limbic brain. These re-occurring emotional patterns can add allot of stress to anyone’s life and stress is not healthy for anyone.
  5. Listen until they have stopped talking and then breathe thoughtfully before you respond. By pausing before responding, you will have their full attention.

These small effective tools will allow your mind to remain calm and all your internal mechanisms will respond in the same manner. When using rational thought processes, we are less likely to engage an emotional response.

Emotional responses are stressors. Learn why it is important for your health not to continually engage stressors and the chemical process that leave your immune responses weakened.

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Xo Adele Anderson