Listening can be difficult. Our world is noisy. So are our minds. Even in our own homes, the constant noise of kids screaming, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming, phones buzzing, and our endless lists of things that need to get done that are running through incessantly in our minds creates constant noise. We try to escape the noise through headphones, but this just leads to nobody communicating with anybody.
I have noticed that we either never learned how, or are forgetting one of the most important and basic parts of successful relationships: actively listening and genuinely caring about what our loved one is telling us. We tend to do this well when we are first meeting people or are trying to make a good impression. But sadly, we forget its value when we come home.
Whether it’s just a distraction, our list of things to do, or simply overlooking the ones closest to us, we can all do a better job of listening. It’s a powerful way to show how much we care. It’s a way to honor the other person as important and valuable.
Julian Treasure’s Ted Talk “5 Ways to Listen Better,” is a short, succinct presentation on ways to improve our listening. Treasure describes listening as a skill (that should be taught in schools). He gives five exercises to practice and improve your ability as a listener:
1. Three minutes a day of silence (or at least quiet).
2. “The Mixer”—how many different streams of sound can you identify?
3. Savoring—enjoy mundane sounds (“the hidden choir”).
4. Identify different “listening positions” for different situations.
5. RASA: Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask
I would add practicing “focused attention” to the list. Practice listening to something. Pay attention to how long you can focus. Notice when you get distracted from what you were originally listening to and then go back to focusing on it again.
Here is the link to the Treasure’s talk, if you have seven and a half minutes to spare.
My favorite quotes from this Ted Talk are:
• “Try to listen to [your spouse] every day as if it were for the first time.”
• “Conscious listening creates understanding.”
• “Listen consciously to live fully.”
I hope the noise doesn’t get in the way of our most meaningful relationships!More
In a TED Talk from 2012, Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy explained how our body language not only shapes our interactions with others, but how it can have profound effects on how we feel about ourselves. She suggests that by simply changing our posture for 2, yes only 2 minutes, we can dramatically shift our brains response to stress and begin to feel and act more confident.
Take a moment to notice your body language right now. Are your arms crossed in front of you or resting by your side? Is your chin lifted or tucked down? In her research, Cuddy and colleagues found that “closed” body language, like crossing your arms in front of you and looking down at the ground, can actually increase the release of the stress hormone cortisol in your brain. When we have higher levels of cortisol in our system we feel less confident and more reactive and avoidant. Cuddy found that by simply lifting the chin, unwrapping your arms from your chest, and lifting your heart, cortisol is deceased and testosterone begins to flood the brain. This is a good thing because testosterone can increase feelings of optimism, assertiveness, and confidence.
Is it really that simple? Yes. In practice with my clients, I have found that having them shift their body posture, or even having them get into a gentle and supported “heart-opening” yoga posture, can help them feel more comfortable talking about and addressing their issues and moods. Changing what signals your body sends to your brain changes how you feel about the situation and about your ability to manage it.
I offer this challenge to you, the next time you find you are holding your body in a “closed” posture, assess what your mood is. Then, for 2 minutes open your posture, elongate, spread out, and lift yourself up. Maybe even look at yourself in the mirror as you do this. Check back in and assess what has shifted your mood or perception.
Let your body teach your brain a simple 2 minute technique for stress management.
Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk by clicking the link below.
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