Communication Breakdown: Why do we listen to reply and not listen to understand?

64cd46f6-b021-4d4e-9188-4d1a7c578c1d.jpg

Why We Tend to Listen to Reply and not Listen to Understand

As a skill, listening is very critical in communication. It is the best way to pass across information and, more importantly, knowledge between individuals. Even so, studies suggest that over the years, our listening ability has only deteriorated. We no longer listen to understand. Instead, we listen to reply.

Studies show that we spend close to 60 per cent of everyday listening to others, but only retain a quarter of what we hear. Part of the reason for this could be that the world around us has become louder over time. A careful scrutiny and analysis of issues reveal the real suspects in play; a delicate combination of a pair of aspects within the human brain. These aspects include:

  • The lag time concept
  • The confirmation bias aspect

The lag time concept

Charles Gross, in his study at Princeton University in 2010, discovered what he called lag time in communication. It is the time duration between what you hear and what you understand. Now, according to Gross, lag time is in the range of a few seconds up to a minute. Of course this varies among individuals.

According to Charles Gross, lag time is the reason people listen more to reply than to understand. In fact, this is where real trouble begins. During lag time we shift attention to ourselves. We stop listening to the others. Instead, we listen to ourselves, a perfect recipe for communication breakdown. During the same phase, we tend to figure out a quick response rather than let the message sink in. The whole conversation then ends up into a fierce contest.

imgres.jpg

What causes lag time in communication?

The exact cause of lag time is still unclear, though psychotherapists and psychologists believe human emotions holds a center stage and are very critical to it. Thoughts, beliefs, values, perceptions and opinions are also other very vital ingredients of an individual’s lag time.

The confirmation bias aspect

In the words of Grand Eklund, “You are only listening to what you want to hear.” I can’t agree with Eklund more. In all most every communication setting, people tend to pick out facts and other figures they deem fit; what affirms their pre-existing perspectives, values and beliefs. In so doing, they listen with more intent to reply than to understand – a real communication disaster. That is in fact how the confirmation bias concept operates.

Healthy conversation should involve listening to every detail of what is spoken. Confirmation bias however contradicts this. It makes it quite the challenge to listen and acquire knowledge.

How does confirmation bias come about?

Psychologists hint that confirmation bias has some level of connection and link with how slow individuals speaks in comparison to how fast they listen. Studies show that the human brain has the ability to process words at an optimum rate of between 600 and 1000 words per minute. When we speak, individuals communicate roughly 175 to 200 words a minute. Clearly, we aren’t utilizing our brain’s full capacity, especially when listening. Because of this underutilization of potential, the human brain tends to drift off into other aspects that would make up for that deficit; the onset of competitive listening.

Competitive listening is best explained using George Miller’s Law. In order to understand what someone else is saying, one has to first assume that the other person’s position is true and then try to find out what is actually true in it. A negation of Miller’s concept bears what is known as competitive listening; hearing something then reacting negatively to it, in part because of a belief that the other person’s position is false. In this spirit, listening grinds to a halt and communication breaks down.

760858f5-ad1f-4faf-b315-27f06d2cb15c.jpg

Way forward to effective listening

Many years of exploring listening as an art points me in a common direction; that effectiveness in listening can only be achieved through awareness and concentration. Yes, simply allowing yourself to listen better without coercion.

In order to “listen to understand and not just to reply”, we need to concentrate more voluntarily. This way, we acquire more knowledge and also make our conversations more effective.

How Can You Spot A Narcissist?

images-6They are like human magnets, drawing in those around them. They can be downright captivating, but within them lies ulterior motives. Narcissists thrive on being admired by those that surround them, and find it difficult to be told that they are not beautiful or brilliant. Like the Greek mythological figure Narcissus, they are cursed because they love no one but themselves. They are destined to waste away, alone with their vanity and need for acknowledgement. The truth of the matter is that we all have a narcissistic streak, as it is a trait that varies in degree from person to person. There are some aspects of narcissism that are healthy and adaptive, like confidence and self-sufficiency. But when taken to the extreme, they become classified as narcissistic personality disorder. So what are the characteristics of a true narcissist?

High levels of self-esteem, grandiosity, self-focus, and self-importance are common amongst narcissists. Narcissists think that they are more attractive and intelligent that everyone else and have no problem telling those around them. They carry themselves with the utmost confidence, ensuring that those around them take notice. At first narcissists may just seem arrogant and full of themselves, but there are clear Unknown-1differences between a narcissist and someone who is self-centered. Narcissists are vain to an extreme degree, feel entitled, and use different manipulation techniques to ensure that everyone around them admires them.

Big, anonymous cities are where narcissists will thrive, often finding careers in entertainment-related fields. Narcissists are quick to accept positions where they will be leaders, allowing them to dominate and impress others without the negative impact of a bad reputation (which is often achieved through their promiscuity and socially unacceptable behaviour). This need to lead is not necessarily to manipulate others, but to receive more recognition and positive reinforcement from others.

This allows for a narcissist to be comfortable maintaining distant ties with those they surround themselves with. The way that narcissists interact with others is especially interesting. While they engage in less desirable communication techniques (yelling, cursing, arguing, etc.), they still engage those around them. This is all to maintain power in an interaction. They tend to not reciprocate conversation very well, “glazing over” while others are speaking. Narcissists are not interested when the attention is not on them.

images-2Another important characteristic to consider about narcissists is their sexual habits. Men and women who score high on narcissism tests express more interest in short-term physical relationships, rather than long-term relationships. In order to engage those they desire, women will often times dress more provocatively, while men will engage more in bragging and using their wit. Promiscuity is the direct result of their search for the best deal for themselves. They use this as another way to control their environment, and even when in a committed relationship they are much more likely to be unfaithful. Unknown-2

Narcissists have a very Jekyll and Hyde personality. When the charm and dazzle wears off, and those around them start to become disenchanted, narcissists transform. They become angry, hostile, and will punish anyone who does not support their grandiose vision of themselves. Rejection is not something a narcissist will ever come to accept until they can come to terms with their warped sense of self.

Narcissism is a complicated and serious disorder. While we are all a little bit narcissistic, the degree to which it comes out depends greatly on our underlying beliefs about ourselves. Narcissism is handy in reminding us how important we are, helping to build confidence and self-esteem. But it can be a very lonely disorder. Despite having all the followers they could possibly want, narcissist are left standing alone, the only ones truly able to fill up the hole they are constantly trying to fill with admiration. Hope, faith, love, and understanding can guide a narcissist away from the fate of Narcissus, the namesake of the disorder. With a little support and a lot of hard work/reflection, narcissism is something that can be conquered.

Conquering Fears in Relationships

shutterstock_105933593  Fear. It can take over your thoughts, and in turn you can build up so many walls and blocks that you end up feeling alone and misunderstood. So many of us long for a meaningful relationship to another person, but it is fear that gets in the way. Fear of rejection, fear of judgement, fear of abandonment and fear of trust are just a few of the many fears that we must overcome in order to gain a meaningful relationship.

Fear of rejection is all about self-confidence and self esteem. It stops us from chasing after our dreams because we do not want to be turned down or fall. Every no we receive brings us closer to the door with the possibility of a yes, that is why it is so important to work through your fear of rejection and learn to cope rather than avoid.

shutterstock_123809797Fear of judgement stems from not having fully accepted ourselves. We are our own harshest critics. Full self-love and acceptance can change that, although we can never be 100% of anything 100% of the time. It does not mean that everyone thinks the way you do about yourself. People’s judgements on others have very little to do with the person being judged. It has much more to do with the person doing the judging. Their own insecurities come out against others. People will judge no matter what situation you are in, but it should matter not what they think, but what you think about yourself.

A fear of abandonment is within all of us, but the severity is based solely on our personal experiences in the past. With some it is much closer to the surface. A fear of abandonment can manifest in several different ways, the most apparent of which is the need to be clingy and demanding. Another way people cope with the fear of abandonment is rejecting their partner before they themselves are rejected, running away from relationships before they have reached their full potential. And finally, there are those who will change their whole entire person to become the “perfect” partner for the person that they are interested in. These coping skills are poor and maladaptive, which can cause train-wreck relationships to become normal. This is where being able to develop trust in your partner is so important.shutterstock_107413730

The fear of trust is a big deal in relationships, romantic or otherwise. It is a pretty common occurrence. We have all been hurt by someone we trusted, someone who decided that what they wanted was more important than our trust. But we have to keep in mind that we cannot punish everyone else for that person’s mistakes, especially when seeking out new relationships. It is perfectly normal to have a period of trust building and cautiousness in the beginning of a relationship. However, at some point we have to decide whether or not we can trust the other person. Trust is the foundation of every good relationship, and without it, you don’t really have a relationship at all.

But how do we overcome these fears? Well, it is a daily struggle. It takes a lot of reflection and deep inner work to break through these defenses. We have not only the outside opinions to combat with, but the internal ones as well. Our brain is pretty good at talking us out of things, but sometimes we just have to ignore it and take a leap of faith. Relationships, especially romantic ones, carry a lot of risk which is reasonable to be unsure of. But if we are unwilling to accept that risk, we may just lose out on having someone wonderful in our lives.

I Come First: Healthy Boundaries and Avoiding Burn Out

Expectations are a part of everyday life. We have expectations of others and them of us. There are times where there is so much pressure and so much to do, that it may feel like we are running in circles trying to get things done. The constant bombardment with new tasks and added responsibilities can weigh us down. If we are constantly putting ourselves behind others, we get burnt out. There is this constant drained feeling that just overtakes our emotions and our bodies.

shutterstock_62127079  So why do we feel the need to make everyone else happy? The biggest reason may be fear; fear of rejection, fear of being judged, and even fear of being alone. These fears can cause us to do crazy and unreasonable things for those around us, while we need to be thinking of ourselves as well. Finding a healthy balance in between what we need to do for others and what we need to do for ourselves can be a daily struggle. How can you find the balance between yourself and others?

Maintain healthy boundaries. Know when to say no and let others know what you are willing to do. There is no reason for you to be bending over backwards to make everyone happy all of the time. There should be boundaries for the amount of responsibility that other people can put onto you and you onto them. It is important to shutterstock_89030563know that saying no to things is okay.

Take time out for yourself daily. Turn off your phone, stay away from the computer, and just disconnect. Having time by yourself is one of the most important parts of the day. It is a time to reflect and heal and replenish your energy. It can be 15 minutes, or it can be 3 hours. But it is important to have that bit of time alone with yourself each and every day.

Ask for help. If you are feeling too overwhelmed, ask for help. If nothing else, talk to someone about how you are feeling and what you are taking on. Just getting it out can make a world of difference.

shutterstock_80333077Communicate your feelings to those around you. If you are feeling burnt out and under too much pressure, let those around you know. Communication is vital to every relationship and letting others know what you are feeling can open up doors to solutions you may not have thought possible. Just shutting yourself off from the world will not relieve any pressure, but it will create more problems for you in the long run.

There are times when we all feel overwhelmed and burnt out. However, it is how you handle these times that says the most about you. Take charge, find ways to feel empowered, and take care of yourself. At the end of the day, life is much too short to spend it being anything but happy.

 

 

Expectations in Therapy

shutterstock_114450547  The reasons why people seek help in therapy varies widely, but the expectations are the same; change and insight. So why does it sometimes feel like there is little to no change? Why do we feel worse, and not always better? Why do we feel like we are still stuck in the same place as when we started therapy? These are all frequently asked questions for those in therapy. This comes from a misunderstanding of the role of the therapist in therapy, as well as a misunderstanding of the client’s role in the relationship. Let’s take a look at the therapeutic relationship, and the roles of both the counsellor and client to better understand it.

The therapeutic relationship seems simple at first glance. It is a relationship that involves a deep trust and understanding, however these are two things that are very hard to develop with a stranger. Feeling unsure of how much to reveal about yourself is completely normal early on in the therapeutic relationship, but going forward it is important that the trust level is increased. Not being able to open up to your therapist slows down or brings the process to a hault. A lack of trust will lead to a lack of open communication, and expecting to get help without taking a look at yourself is completely impossible. It is fair to expect your therapist to facilitate a space in which you feel safe and secure, but it is your responsibility to open up.

Therapists are equipped with tools and strategies to help you work through just about shutterstock_117868852anything, but not every therapist is equipped to handle everything. Depending on their style of therapy and training, one may be well-suited for your needs and another may not be. This is why it is important to be clear about what you are hoping to get out of therapy. This will let your therapist know if they will be able to meet your expectations, or if they will need to refer you to another clinician. Do not take a referral as a sign of a therapist giving up on you. Take it for what it is, their attempt to put the help that you require within your reach.

One assumption about your therapist that may not be a conscious one, is that they are going to be able to solve all of your problems. This could not be any further from the truth. In person-centred therapy (which is what the majority of therapy is), your therapist acts as a guide. Your therapist will ask you questions in an attempt to reach your deeper feelings and thoughts, and guide you to the realization of these thoughts and feelings. Your therapist does not have all of the answers. Inside you are the answers that you are looking for, your therapist just helps to shed a different light on these answers.

shutterstock_120187948So what is your role as the client in all of this? Well, put simply, your role is to put in the work that is required in order for you to move forward. This means learning to trust your therapist, having open honest conversations with them (and yourself), and doing the homework that they ask you to do. In order for your therapy to be successful, you need to be open to the experience and willing to take a good hard look at who you are. It is important to keep in mind that your life will not improve instantaneously, and neither will your mood. Often times bringing up the past can be very painful and difficult to deal with. This pain should not be discouraging. It is an important part of the entire process.

A really good question to ask yourself is, what are my goals?  Write them down and work with your therapist towards your goals without any expectations of a time frame.  Failed expectations bring disappointment.  Better to allow the therapeutic process to happen organically rather then trying to control the outcome.

Therapy is challenging, but it is a good way to help you sort yourself out. A therapist can be a good foundation of support and well-being in your life that you may not have otherwise. When discouraged by the process, remember this: it is not the path we take that matters, but the things we learn about ourselves.

More Than Just Talk: Effective Communication Between You and Your Significant Other

shutterstock_47090224  Communication is so important in every relationship that we are a part of. We need to be able to clearly express our feelings and desires to those we are involved with in order to have our needs met. This is especially true to having a successful relationship with your significant other. In order for communication to be strong later in a relationship, it is necessary to have a good foundation built on honesty, openness, and trust. Good communication aides in both arguments and important decisions (i.e. children, life goals, etc.) put your communication skills to the test. So what is good communication? To fully explore this, we first need to take a look at what dysfunctional and functional communication looks like.

Have you ever been in a relationship in which talking to your partner was frustrating and painful? Did they shut down during arguments? Was there a lack of trust and honesty? If the answer to these questions is yes, chances are the communication between you and your partner was dysfunctional. Some characteristics/behaviours that can be considered dysfunctional communication include:

  • Shutting down during arguments (giving the silent treatment when angry, getting increasingly impatient and angry when participating in emotional conversations)
  • Lack of trust (inability to open up about true feelings and refusal to participate in meaningful/heartfelt exchanges)
  • Dishonesty (telling “half-truths” or just not telling the truth at all, hiding things in order to avoid having a conversation about it)
  • Actively ignoring (making an effort to “tune out” or not engage in conversation at all on a consistent basis)
  • Abusive and hurtful language (swearing, name calling, and put downs being used on a consistent basis during arguments and everyday conversations)

Dysfunctional communication can have huge consequences in a relationship, including shutterstock_33262939constant turmoil and arguments between you and your partner. It is possible to move from dysfunctional communication to functional communication, but what does functional communication look like?

Functional communication is, at its most basic level, effective and meaningful conversations between you and your partner that deepen trust, allow for openness, and promote full disclosure and honesty. Some characteristics/behaviours that can be considered functional communication include:

  • Ability to be vulnerable with your partner (being able to be open and honest about sensitive topics (past traumas, true feelings) as well as being respectful of your partner’s feelings and experiences)
  • Actively listening to your partner (engaging in the conversation through acknowledging them (nodding, eye contact) as well as responding appropriately and fully)
  • Trusting your partner
  • Ability to be honest with your partner (completely and fully expressing your true feelings about important things, as well as expressing your frustrations and anger in a healthy way)

Although the differences between dysfunctional and functional communication seem vast, it is possible in some relationships to repair past damage and move forward to more effective communication.

As in any relationship, gaining effective communication requires a lot of hard work. Having good communication with your partner is not going to happen overnight, but below are some suggestions to help you and your partner communicate more effectively.

Speak honestly about how you feel. Let your partner know when you are angry with them, or when you are hurting, instead of shutting down. Shutting down can create resentment which can destroy a relationship.

Find ways to gain trust with your partner. This is not an easy task. Past experience can taint your ability to trust in another person, however, working through this and providing your partner with opportunities to gain your trust can do wonders for communication. Give your partner every opportunity to put their trust in you, and work towards gaining their trust.

shutterstock_71759158Pick your battles and learn to fight fairly. Before engaging your partner in an argument, think about your motives for arguing. Understand that arguments are not about winning or losing, but about learning to compromise and see both perspectives. Well arguments are completely normal in relationships, it is important that you fight fairly. Avoid using harsh and hurtful language when arguing with your partner. Words often do much more damage than we are aware of, and some of these wounds are irreparable.

Communication is the foundation of human interaction. That is why it is so important that you are able to effectively communicate with your significant other. Developing a healthy way of connecting to your partner will not only bring you closer together, but increase your happiness and stability within the relationship.

Emotional Intelligence

National Bare Day is a campaign to advocate, educate, and change women into becoming more emotionally intelligent. It is an empowering campaign, looking to help women become stronger, more confident, and the leaders that they are meant to be. Emotional intelligence is something that is extremely important to maintain relationships and have inner peace.

Emotional intelligence is about more than just yourself. Emotional intelligence encompasses both the internal and the external, playing an important part in your relationships with others. While many models to explain emotional intelligence do exist, there are some that are more widely accepted than others.

Self-awareness is an important piece of emotional intelligence. Being aware of your own emotions, reactions and values allows for a greater insight into empathy and sympathy, two things that are essential to relationships with others. Becoming aware of your own emotions reinforces your mind-body-spirit connection. By strengthening this connection, you can come in touch with your deepest desires and goals. This is helpful when determining your values, giving you a center for your moral compass. With these values in place, you can become more aware of the impact that your actions have on others.

An exercise to improve self-awareness is to consider situations in the past in which you had a strong emotional response. Consider why you felt the way that you did, your reaction and the outcome in the situation. Consider the appropriateness of your response to this emotion and determine a way in which you could have reacted differently.

shutterstock_90072907Self-regulation is not something that can be easily mastered. With emotions like anger, self-regulation can be a challenge as it is a pure and passionate emotion. When anger goes unchecked, this can lead to serious problems in your relationships. Unchecked anger leads to senseless arguments when you lash out at those that are not the cause for your anger in the first place. Redirecting and controlling your disruptive emotions (i.e. anger) can lead to healthier relationships and a happier you.

An exercise to improve self-regulation is really thinking about what you are feeling, why you are feeling it, and what the next steps are going to be. Taking a deep breath before you lash out can be the difference in between a civil conversation and a violent confrontation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What emotion am I experiencing?

  • What caused me to have this emotion (i.e. anger, sadness, ect.)?

  • How am I going to react to this feeling?

The third question is an extremely important one. This is where controlling your response to an emotion comes into play. Think carefully before you act and react to the emotion(s) that you are feeling to gain the desired outcome.

Social skills are also an important part of emotional intelligence. Knowing how to relate to people and maintain relationships can be challenging in a culture in which rely so heavily on electronic communication. However, social skills are still as important as knowing how to communicate through text messages and e-mail. Picking up on social cues and knowing what is appropriate to say in which situations is at the core of having good social skills. There are many ways to develop better social skills. A few things to consider to develop your social skills are:

  • Approachability – How approachable are you? Do you have a friendly demeanor? Do you have an easy time walking up to others and striking up a conversation?

  • Language – Do you use language that is relatable to those you are speaking to you? Are you using language that is appropriate for the situation that you are in?

  • Active Listening – Are you an active participant in the conversation? Do you find yourself dominating the conversation? Are you really taking the time to listen to and understand what the other person is saying?

shutterstock_102337144Empathy is something that many people struggle with, but it is essential to emotional intelligence. Empathy as part of emotional intelligence is being able to consider someone else’s feelings when making decisions. It is about being able to put yourself in the other’s shoes, and truly feel how they would feel if you were to make a decision. You need to consider all possibilities, and be able to accept the other’s feelings when you make a decision. This comes into play in every relationship, and when empathy is not considered, can form a rift in between both parties.

Empathy is something that comes with time. It is not easy to be understanding and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You have to be truly open and receptive to another’s emotions in order to be truly empathetic. Empathy is something that is very important during the recovery process. You need to gain some empathy in order to understand the worry and other feelings that your family and loved ones have experienced while you were addicted. You need to be able to put yourself in their shoes, understand the significance of their feelings, and how those feelings reflect on your past behaviours.

During recovery, emotional intelligence is something that is extremely key to the process. Without an understanding of yourself and the relationships that allowed your addiction to continue, you may not get to the bottom of the root cause of your addiction. In recovery, you experience a complete transformation of your routine, your thinking, and your values. You have to choose life instead of addiction in order for the recovery to shutterstock_117884191be successful. By gaining emotional intelligence during recovery, you can set new goals, new values, and start to evaluate your relationships outside of recovery. You will gain a fuller understanding of what it means to be in a healthy relationship with others, and use your newly set values and goals to determine the validity of the relationships in your life. Emotional intelligence will allow you to start making decisions about which relationships you are going to continue to be a part of and those that you are going to move on from.

Emotional intelligence is something that is much more important than many people realise. It is an essential part of daily life and relationships. Having emotional intelligence will allow you to have a stronger mind-body-spirit connection, and a deeper connection to those that you are about. Gaining more insight into your emotions and those that surround you can allow for a better understanding of yourself and others.