Your Secret Weapon for Changing Someone’s Mind

How to influence people by listening with your senses, not just your brain.

When teaching leaders communication skills, I often ask, “Do you know how people feel when you enter the room?” After a few responses, I ask, “Do you know how they feel when you leave?” No matter how well you thought through the words you shared, the way you listened to them will make or break your ability to change how they feel and think.

Most listening is designed to gain information that will fulfill your needs. How often do you listen to people for these purposes:

  1. To collect data: You listen to know what to say or do next. You listen to formulate your argument, to compare your perspective to theirs, or to fill in what you think you are missing.
  2. To give an answer or solve a problem: You listen to know what advice to give when they quit talking.
  3. To obey protocol: You listen because you should, not because you want to.

Listening from the neck up

When you listen for information to formulate your response, you grab only some of their words. They expect you to hear more, and to understand how they feel even though it is hard to accurately decipher facial expressions.1

Listening while thinking annoys most people. Even if you care about them, they won’t feel connected to you in the conversation.

Listen to receive, not analyze

When you choose to be present and connect with someone, you listen beyond your analytical brain. You suspend analysis. You take in and accept their words, expressions, and emotions as elements of their experience. You acknowledge the story they offer as valid from their current point of view. You don’t insert your opinions or judgments. People feel heard and will listen to you in return.

You receive what people offer with the purpose:

  1. To connect: You listen to establish a feeling of connection.
  2. To let the person know you value them: You listen so people feel you care what they think even when your perspective differs from theirs.
  3. To explore, learn, and grow together: You listen with curiosity to learn from the amazing human in front of you. You enjoy when the conversation takes you somewhere new.

Receiving is an active, not passive act even though you suspend your thoughts. You activate your nervous system, receiving sensory input with your heart and gut. With sensory awareness, you can receive and discern what is going on with others beyond the words they speak. They also feel safe enough to openly talk to you.2 You can find a visualization on how to open all three processing centers of your nervous system — your head, heart, and gut — on this site.

Listening with your senses

Sensory awareness includes an inward awareness of your reactions in a conversation. Your reactions might be in response to what they tell you. You also might be reacting to what you energetically receive from them.3 You can sense people’s desires, disappointments, frustrations, hopes, and doubts even when they have trouble articulating these experiences themselves.

Being sensitive doesn’t mean being wishy-washy. It means you are aware of what is going on around you on a sensory level and can sense when people are conflicted or distressed. Most people claim their pets have this ability to sense their emotional needs. Humans can receive these emotional vibrations as well. We just don’t pay attention to them.

You were likely taught to ignore your sensory awareness as a part of your conditioning as a child. Were you ever told, “You shouldn’t take things so personally,” or, “You should toughen up?” These admonishments led you to rely on your cognitive brain for listening.

I’m often asked if venturing into the land of emotions is risky, especially at work. I hear, “I can’t allow people’s emotions to sway me.”

When you don’t allow people to get under your skin, you aren’t experiencing them fully. You are disconnected internally and externally. You put up a wall between yourself and the people you are with.

You might feel their stress, anxiety, and anger. Don’t let these emotions sit in your body.4 Empathy occurs when you receive what another is feeling using sensory awareness, but you need to let these sensations pass through you.5 If you feel their emotion, relax your body and let the emotion subside as you return to being fully present with the person you are with.

There is also emotional energy vibrating between you.6 You can grasp when they want you to back off and give them space. You sense when they are impatient to move on or if they want to take more time. You can tell when they just want to be heard or acknowledged, instead of getting your advice. Share what you notice, and then listen to their response.

You may feel vulnerable when you open yourself to receive what people express. This vulnerability is a strength. Alan Alda said, “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”7 They feel connected when you interact. They enjoy being with you. They are more open to changing their minds when you receive first and then share your ideas.

5 steps for building sensory awareness in conversations

  1. Silence your brain: When you quiet your chattering brain, you clear your sensory channels.
  2. Let go of knowing: Instead of thinking you know how the person will react, try curiosity. Unfortunately, the better you know someone, the more likely you quit being curious. Can you release knowing what people will say? You might be surprised.
  3. Release the need to be right: Ask questions to understand their perspective. Once they feel heard, you can say you have a different perspective. They will be more willing to hear your point of view.
  4. Listen with your heart and gut as well as your head: Before your conversation, open your heart with feelings of compassion or gratitude. Then, open your gut by feeling your courage.
  5. Test your instinct: When you feel an emotional sensation, share what you think they might be feeling, such as anger, frustration, sadness, or yearning. Accept their response. If you are wrong, your guess could still help them better understand themselves and feel you cared enough to understand.

Can you open yourself to fully receive what people offer? They will be more willing to hear your ideas and possibly change their minds if you do.

References

1  Alice Park. Emotions May Not Be So Universal After All, Time.com, March 6, 2014.

2  Shari M. Gellar and Stephen W. Porges. “Therapeutic Presence: Neurophysiological Mechanisms Mediating Feeling Safe in Therapeutic Relationships,” Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 2014, Vol. 24, No. 3, 178–192.

3   Daniel J. Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. New York: The Guilford Press; 2nd edition, 2012.

4  Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, “Too much emotional intelligence is a bad thing.” Scientific American Mind, March 1, 2017.

5  Marcia Reynolds, “Can You Have Too Much Empathy? When empathy breaks trust.” PscychologyToday.com, April 15, 2017.

6  Rollin McCraty, “The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People.” Chapter published in: Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, edited by P. J. Rosch and M. S. Markov. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2004: 541-562.

7  Alan Alda, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned. New York: Random House, 2005, p. 160.

Source Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/wander-woman/201910/your-secret-weapon-changing-someones-mind

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Study Indicates Why Worry Influences Concentration on Everyday Tasks

A recent research has demonstrated that worry affects regions of the brain that are crucial  for concentration. The study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Psychology in the University of Roehampton, London. Professor Paul Allen and his colleagues from the Department have examined how worry influences ‘attentional control’ or the brain areas that are involved in concentration.

The study involved the assessment of the participants for determining how often and how intensely they face worrying thoughts. They participants were made to undergo a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scan while carrying out a task requiring different levels of attentional control. The scan results indicated that, whilst all participants were able to effectively complete the task, higher levels of worry were associated with greater activity and reduced connectivity in the attentional control regions of the brain. This was evident particularly in the frontal cortex. This shows that worry impair attentional control particularly when task demands are high.

Professor Allen said “Everyone worries about things from time to time—some people more than others. Psychologists have known for some time that worry can affect our concentration, especially when we need to focus on difficult tasks. This finding suggests that worry can lead to less efficient use of neural resources and may explain why worry affects our ability to concentrate on everyday tasks.”

The study has significant implications for the understanding of how the brain and its ability to function normally are affected by emotions like worry and anxiety.

Also read:
Five Ways to Boost Your Concentration

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Study Explains Why People Lie

We all were probably taught to never lie but there would be rarely anyone who can truthfully claim that he or she doesn’t lie or hasn’t lied in life, ever. Depending upon the demands of the situation, we might tell a lie for harmless reasons like to avoid awkward situations, protect others, or avoid hurting others’ feelings, or, for some other reasons that are much serious and can potentially wreak havoc on our lives. However, there are some people who lie out of habit. And, the more they lie, the easier and more frequent this behaviour becomes. Scientists have now discovered why liars lie.

Psychologists believe that children start lying at the age of two. Since lying involves paying attention to the environment, complex planning, and the ability to manipulate a situation, it is actually considered a crucial milestone in children’s development. While growing up, they keep on learning how to use this skill for their own benefit, and by the time they reach adulthood, their lies become much more clever, harder to catch, and easier to get away with.

Cognitive neuroscientist Joshua Greene from Harvard University investigated the physical process of lying during an experiment. Participants were given the opportunity to win money by lying. While some of them still stuck to being honest and told the truth, others resorted to deception. The MRI of the participants was performed to examine their brain activity during the study. The MRI reports revealed that there was an increased activity in the frontal parietal control network of the group of liars because deciding between honesty and lying requires hard and intricate thinking. Since the neural reward centers of the participants who won money by telling lies were more active, it can be assumed that lying may be a result of the inability to resist temptation.

However, there is still no scientific explanation as to why people tend to avoid lying and whether it is a result of conflict in their brains or an understanding of morality and self-control, or simply following the social norm. According to Dan Ariely, a behavioral psychologist at Duke, “We are our own judge about our own honesty. And that internal judge is what differentiates psychopaths and non-psychopaths.”

Apparently, despite that the urge to lie comes from within, external factors can influence the frequency too. Research has shown that people tend to be dishonest when they are suffering from stress or lack of sleep, or when they see others lying. “We as a society need to understand that when we don’t punish lying, we increase the probability it will happen again,” Ariely added.

Ariely and his colleagues conducted a study to show the change in participants’ brain while they are being dishonest. The study revealed that there was an increased activity in their amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for producing fear, anxiety and emotions. This change made lying or being dishonest easier for those participants. The signals from the amygdala reduced when they expected no consequences for being dishonest, such as when playing a game. Cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, Tali Sharot, who led the research said, “If you give people multiple opportunities to lie for their own benefit, they start with little lies and get bigger and bigger over time.”