Getting caught out not listening

 

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Ok. I’ll admit it. It was me.   

What on earth are you talking about Summerhayes? Have you finally lost the plot? Gone off the rails? Decided to enter the loony bin? Nope. I am admitting something, I’ve always kept hidden.

For year and years.

I didn’t listen and focus on the conversation.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it. However, for years, I have had this habit of appearing to listen whilst doing something else. For example, I often, read something one e:mail as I speak to someone face-2-face. At work, I will sit in meetings and whilst someone is talking, I will be checking emails, responding to queries and the like.

Hang on though. Everyone does it, don’t they?

You see many people doing the same thing. They will be reading something on their laptops, whilst at the same time, appearing to be in a conversation.

It has become a habit to many people. A habit that is both unhelpful to me, but worse, impacts those around me.

So how do you try to fix it?

I am striving to change the way I listen and interact with people. I have come up with an eight-point an eight-point Check out my ideas below:

Point 1: Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
From that moment on, I have locked my laptop; put my mobile phone down and faced the speaker. How on earth do you think they feel if you are looking at everything but them?

Point 2: Be attentive, but relaxed.
Be present with the person and give attention to what they are saying. After all, it is important to them. I am mentally screening out distractions, like background activity and noise. It helps in my case that I wear glasses. I have even taken them off, so that I can “see” the person, rather than all the other distractions in the room. Don’t be distracted by your own thoughts, feelings, or biases and pay attention to them.

Point 3: Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
Allow your mind to create a mental model of the information being communicated. Whether a literal picture, or an arrangement of abstract concepts, your brain will do the necessary work if you stay focused, with senses fully alert. When listening for long stretches, concentrate on, and remember, key words and phrases.

Point 4: Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions” on them.
I can not count the number of times, I have interrupted someone and made a suggestion to solve a problem. It has been one of my “traits” for years and I have grown to hate doing it. We all think and speak at different rates – the average person utters anywhere from 125 to 175 words per minute. However, we can read upwards of 500 to 700 words per minute. Hence, a really clear reason why we end up “zoning out”. If you are a quick thinker and an agile talker, the burden is on you to relax your pace for the slower, more thoughtful communicator—or for the person who has trouble expressing himself.

When listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions. Most of us don’t want your advice anyway. If they do, they would ask for it. Most people prefer to figure out our their solutions to their problems.

Point 5: Wait for the speaker to pause to ask any clarifying questions.
When you don’t understand something, of course you should ask the person to explain it to you. But rather than interrupt, wait until the person pauses. Then say something like, “Hang on a moment, I didn’t quite understand what you just said about…”

Point 6: Ask questions to ensure understanding.
Be careful of asking questions that take people down “rat holes”. Our questions can lead people in directions that have nothing to do with where they thought they were going. Sometimes we work our way back to the original topic, but very often we don’t.

When you notice that your question has led the speaker astray, take responsibility for getting the conversation back on track by rephrasing the last part of their conversation. In effect, getting them to reset where they are in their thought processes.

Point 7: Empathy. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
If you feel sad when the person with whom you are talking expresses sadness, joyful when they express joy, fearful when they describe their fears—and convey those feelings through your facial expressions and words—then your effectiveness as a listener is assured. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening.

finally and the most difficult point is, Point 8: Keep an open mind.
Listen without judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things they tell you. If what they say worries you, go ahead and feel worried, but don’t say to yourself, “Well, that was a stupid move.” As soon as you indulge in judgmental thoughts, you’ve compromised your effectiveness as a listener.

Listen without jumping to conclusions. Remember that the speaker is using language to represent the thoughts and feelings inside their brain. You don’t know what those thoughts and feelings are and the only way you’ll find out is by listening.

I have found that I need to keep my “feedback” to myself. I have learnt to pause, before responding and sometimes replay back to the speaker a summary of what they have said, both to show that I have listened, as well as to cross check my understanding.

 

Agree? Disagree? Please feel free to comment and share.

I leave you with the following quote.

“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” ― Roy T. Bennett

Perceptions and Reality

“No matter how people try to dispute it, perception is reality. It’s what you choose to believe that makes you the person you are.” ― Karen Marie Moning

We all live in our own worlds. Our own bubbles of reality as it were. Everything we see, hear, feel, touch or smell is our perception of a reality that others might not recognise. Often, I am amazed that what I might perceive, others do not. After all, we all live on the same planet, in relatively similar conditions, so why do we perceive things so differently?

Take something as simple as colours. I often go out for walks and admire the countryside as I walk through it. The grasses, the trees, the different plants and animals. Often, the clouds in the sky caught my eye. But wait a moment. Is the sky blue? And what hue of blue is it? If someone was with me, I could point at the sky and say it is blue, and you would concur. But are you really seeing that blue the way I am seeing it? Perhaps you have just learnt to call what you see “blue”, but in the actual experience, you are seeing nothing like the vivid, rich, blue I see.

So how do you see colour?

Our colour vision starts with the sensors in the back of the eye that turn light information into electrical signals in the brain – neuroscientists call them photoreceptors. We have a number of different kinds of these, and most people have three different photoreceptors for coloured light. These are sensitive to blues, greens and reds respectively, and the information is combined to allow us to perceive the full range of colours.

People experience colour in similar ways but not entirely the same. Some of that is culturally induced. A white wedding dress is the colour of innocence the West, but in China, wedding dresses are bright red. Some colour associations are biologically induced by the way the colour system is wired in the brain. Some of it is learned by the brain’s highly adaptive visual system according to the frequency of colour association with different types of objects and situations in the environment, for example seeing a red strawberry, though, for colorblind people, it might be blue!

Now move onto something more complex, like relationships.

I was thinking this the other day after a wonderful week turned into a complete disaster at the end. A disjointed conversation and a difference of perception were all it took. What followed was attempts to communicate that got progressively worse. I was too focused on the moment and not the situation. The situation spiralled out of control and terminated with an unanswered phone.

Over the following days, I took the time to reflect on what I had done and the approach I had taken. Just because we see something a particular way does not make it so. We can be so insistent sometimes that our way of seeing something is more right than someone else’s way. This clouds our judgements and can exacerbate the situation.

Keep an open mind at all times and remember that a point of view is always valuable to each individual. I always used to class myself as someone who was ‘realistic’ but after contemplating this further I realised that the term ‘realistic’ means something very different entirely.

There is no such thing as reality. There is only ‘your’ version of it which is essentially your perception. Remember that what you believe to be true is only as true as your worldly experience and it doesn’t go any further than that. No one else can see your reality. They can only see or hear what you perceive to share, and even that is open to interpretation.

Agree? Disagree? Please feel free to comment and share.

I leave you with the following quote.

“Reality is what we take to be true.

What we take to be true is what we believe.

What we believe is based upon our perceptions.

What we perceive depends upon what we look for.

What we look for depends upon what we think.

What we think depends upon what we perceive.

What we perceive determines what we believe.

What we believe determines what we take to be true.

What we take to be true is our reality.”

Gary Zukav, Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics

Fears, Worries and anxieties?

Above all, we don’t know the future. It’s the other side of our dependence on chance. Things can get slightly better for reasons it’s hard to foresee. Just as pleasures fade and can seem meaningless in retrospect, so pains (at least sometimes) can pass or soften. The School of Life, on Feeling Depressed

Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life.

There are two main kinds of stress — acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.

Chronic stress — the kind most of us face day in, day out — is a killer.

However, what does not help is that we pile even more onto ourselves in terms of fears. worries and anxieties into the chronic stress mix.

I came across a really great phrase that seems to capture the idea of fears. worries and anxieties. The phrase came from Henry David Thoreau. He talked about “quiet desperation: a large, grey hinterland in which beneath an outward surface of endurance, we feel exhausted, close to tears, beyond the sympathetic understanding of others, easily irritated and daunted by the simplest task”. Perhaps we should call it “Thoreau stress”.

Many situations can trigger it. Work. Family. Friends. A social situation.

People try to hide their feelings. We can all put on a facade of fake happiness. I am sure we have all done it in the past. It is hard to maintain and since it is false, people quickly see through it. This makes it even harder as people around you know that there is something not right, but because you can not share, it places a double bind on the whole thing.

I have experienced it and I am sure those that are reading this have experienced it too. It is not something that comes upon you quickly and then fades as quickly. Rather it is something that builds over time. Normally based on a constant pressure that you are trying to cope with.

You might feel that it is all “your fault”. But it is not. I have come to realise that many times, it is self-talk and not stepping back from the situation that piles on the pressure. In addition, you can get caught up in your own emotions and feelings. As I call it “self-ruminating”, over the same situation or course of events.

Tasks and activities; even talking, can become hard. You might lose focus. You might feel that you can not move forward, sideways or even backwards. Stuck in a hinterland of fears, worries and anxiety.

For me, my continuing journey with Mindfulness helps. Is is the cure-all? No. Absolutely not.

I still get those feelings and can get caught up in those Thoreau moments. The first step on any journey is to recognise where you are and that is the case for me now. When those moments come, I know that they are happening. I can recognise the signs. With the mindfulness programmes I have done, I know I can do a breathing exercise; or a body scan; or even mindful walking. The last one is the one I find the best for me.

I have always loved getting out in the fresh air. Walking in the countryside. I combine this with a deliberate walking exercise. And it certainly helps. Does it fix everything? No. But as the quote at the start of the article says “Above all, we don’t know the future. It’s the other side of our dependence on chance. “ And that is what I believe in.

By the way. The photo I am using, was from a recent walk. Enjoy.

The article that inspired this blog can be found at:

http://www.thebookoflife.org/on-feeling-depressed/

I leave you with the following quote:

“If only we could see into the minds of strangers, friends and loved ones we would feel so much less alone and recognise we are all feeling similar things. Hopes. Dreams. Fears. Desires. Wanting to connect. “