Ever wondered what makes you and your best friend click? Or, about the conversations with this particular neighbor that's soul nourishing to you? Or, what naturally drives you to dial-into the phone number of someone, while with others, it is just to convey some information? Perhaps, these individuals are gifting you something precious in every interaction… he or she is listening to you!
On the contrary, try digging deeper into "what makes me not want to meet my boss?" or "why are my team members not making time to meet me everyday?" Perhaps, your boss or you are not being fully present for the other person when they speak in the two scenarios, respectively.
This attribute is rated first and foremost for relationship success. It can be any key relationship in our lives...spouse, child, peer or subordinates. Listening is that powerful tool connecting two souls, almost instantaneously! It is the highest form of respect. When you listen, you are being fully present and available for the other person. I listen (respect) to you because you listen (respect) to me. Sounds like give respect; take respect. Doesn’t it?
It is not only about keeping your device away when a friend or partner or child is talking to you; it is about the genuine curiosity to listen to their side of the story. Maintaining eye-contact, giving listening sounds, asking curious questions from what the other has narrated and also reflecting back their unsaid words…are unimaginably powerful! In fact, when you are genuinely listening, you don’t have to artificially ‘show’ you are; you’ll naturally come across as listening.
As for kids, most of us make the mistake of not even looking at them when they speak or dismiss them off easily as ‘Okay! tell me later. Mom’s busy’. Most often, that impatience comes because we are so engrossed in our FB/WhatsApp or our own past regrets and future anxieties. Irrespective of the child’s age, we must start early by demonstrating listening skills with them. Yes, it can be hard at the end of an exhausting day to scale our thought process down to the level of a toddler or a 9-year old as they eagerly narrate their stories to us. Sometimes, while their brain is still processing the story; they end up sounding like a stuck disc in a gramophone! But, just hang in there. Deep breathe, look into their eyes, nod your head and keep giving listening sounds. Babies or toddlers…every soul deserves this respect. Understandably, it is impossible for us as adults to maintain this composure every single time. But consciously, we could do this most times. When dealing with teens, who hardly listen to us when we speak, it is imperative to stop them in their tracks and say “Listen! Am speaking to you”. Lest, as adults, they would learn these Life Skills the hard way…in their work environment or in their personal relationships.
Research in neuroscience points to our sensitivity to ‘status threats’. When a person is not listened to, they may perceive a threat or real reduction in their status (am I inferior to him/her?) thereby generating a ‘threat-response’ which shows up as reduced openness and connection between two individuals or, a complete shutdown in their interactions! On the contrary, attentively listening and being present for another person, releases Oxytocin in their brain – a chemical in the brain responsible for creating and maintaining strong bonds. And in marriages, even fidelity!
So, are you truly listening??
References: Ann Betz’, Your Brain During Coaching