Runaway Brain

Brain like a cracked light bulb is working overtime. Learn skills to keep your neo-cortex enagaged
Your brain is like a cracked light bulb working overtime. Learn skills to keep your neo-cortex engaged

To understand better, some insight into psychology is needed. We need to understand our brains and our own psychology in order to understand “Lazy Listening”.

Lazy listening is a process where we allow our Reptilian and Limbic brain functions to “fill in the blanks” rather than actively listening to what we are hearing. By allowing this function to occur, our brain leaps forward into a pre-determined reactive or emotional pattern that results in a lot of misunderstandings.

EI: As a child, you may have experienced a fright with being left in the dark. Someone or something frightened you. The result? You developed a fear of the dark. When the lights go out you feel frightened, sweaty, short of breath and fearful of what might happen. This entire process is purely an engagement of an old neural pathway, triggering a chemical reaction in the brain. However the consequence is, Adrenalin courses through your system and engages the flight or fright mechanism. You are no longer able to think rationally. Your blood pressure is elevated and your stress level it out of control.

Humans have 3 brains:
1. The Reptilian Brain- the reactive instinctual brain.
2. The Limbic Brain system rests on top of the Reptilian brain- our emotional patterns brain.
3. The Neo-Cortex sits on top the Limbic brain system- and is called our rational brain. (Does not fully mature until the age of 7-8 years)
a. This means our development years are all survival (reactive) and emotional brain patterns. Reactive and emotional neural patterns become deeply ingrained prior to our ability to rationalize. Think about that!

Why is it important to remove lazy listening from your psychology? Listening is a skill that is a shortage and in demand. People that practice active listening are:
i. More effective and productive
ii. Have more chances to influence others and gain advancement
iii. Develop trust, respect and rapport with others
iv. Are considered better leaders and team members.
v. Make better customer service representatives
vi. Are persuasive and are better negotiators
vii. Avoid misunderstandings

Facts are (Adler, R Rosenfeld L Proctor, R 2001)
• 70% of our day communicating.
o 45% Listening
o 30% Speaking
o 16% Reading
o 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 and put the speaker at ease, give them your attention
o 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, what is not being said is just as important, expression and eye movement.
• 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 system: emotional pattern recognition
• Limbic Brain system: reactive

Learning how to dis-engage the 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 pattern recognition process. Breathe, focus, remove distraction and be impartial.

By being impartial you have a better opportunity to detach an emotional recognition pattern of the limbic system. 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 to your personal emotional neural pattern, you will keep your heart rate steady and 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; running all types of “what-if” scenarios, rebuttals, I had the same experiences… let me tell you mine…… let ME talk. Or 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!

Stopping the chatter, and learning “active listening” skills. Stop reacting!

When we engage emotionally, we have more chance of making assumptions; ingrained emotional neural patterns of the Limbic Brain; or make judgmental, opinions or rebuttals, rather than 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.

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.
a. 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; to make sure you are following the thread.
Repeat the pressure of thumb and forefinger, lean in, make eye contact. Paraphrase, focus.
2. Be inquisitive! By being interested, you train your brain to actively listen to what is being said.
3. 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, rapport.
a. “I’m curios; are you saying…..” I am not sure I understood, can you give me an example?
b. I notice…
4. 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.
5. Remember, it is not “your” story, it is theirs, try not to highjack it!! By attaching an emotion to an event you are making it YOUR story. It is not YOUR story.
a. An emotional response is simply a recognition of 3 points of a similar story. An emotional patterns often deeply ingrained in our Limbic system before the age of 8 is engaged. As you know, assumptions are quite often wrong. 8 year old emotional patterns; brought forward by the Limbic brain recognizing a beginning of a pattern can add allot of stress to anyone’s life and stress is not healthy for anyone.
6. 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…why it is important, for your health not to continually engage stressors and the chemical process that are initiated.

Watch for more articles of how we can overcome.