When my kiddos were little I told them about our brain ears. You know, the ears that are buried deep inside your brain that aren’t so smart.
The ones that hear you (or someone else) say ‘you can’t do that,’ ‘you’re not smart enough,’ ‘there’s no way you’ll succeed at that,’ ‘you suck at math,’ or ‘better quit while you’re ahead you foolish person you.’
While brain ears are really good at listening, they’re not good at deciphering the flotsam from the jetsam, the good stuff from the bad, the true from the daft & outright absurd.
Worse still they have a direct line to our brain & so they are very good at convincing our brains of nonsense.
Enter crisis of confidence, crappy self talk & other untruths.
On another note can you guess what the following are reactions to?
- Pull up the proverbial draw bridge & arm the cannons
- Flee & hide in the closest closet
- Cautiously peer out from behind a curtain
- Stand tall & confident (wonder woman arm bands optional)
- Fists ready, eyes ablaze & anger erupting
- Curious question marks dance above your head
- Eyes & ears wide open
Yep. Depending on who’s doing the talking, how they’re saying what they’re saying & what they’re saying, our reactions are as varied as the animals in the Maasai Mara, here in Kenya.
Words come into your brain & your reaction depends a lot on not just what they are but how they’re said. From fight or flee to flight or faint to face saving or face off.
So what’s a real ear (as opposed to a brain ear) to do?
Pay attention to the third, little known type of communication that often has wayyyy more weight than the other two.
You probably know the first two.
- Verbal communication – these are the actual words you use when you communicate
- Non-verbal communication – this is how you hold your body (e.g. how much or how little space you take up), what your face is doing while you’re communicating etc.
Do you know the third one?
When I’m teaching trainers I demo this third one. I’ll use the same words (verbal communication) & hold my body the same way (non-verbal communication) but I’ll completely change up the third method.
Every.single.time the third technique wins out over the actual words I’m saying.
That is, 100% of the time, people put wayyy more importance on this technique than my actual words or body language.
Can you guess what it is?
Here’s an example.
- It’s called para verbal communication – it’s everything about what I’m saying except for the words. It’s how fast or slow I speak, how many pauses I leave, my tone, my cadence etc.
Para verbal wins, hands down, over verbal communication.
And guess who’s exquisitely attuned to para verbal communication? Your brain ears.
When my kids were little & they spoke harshly or lashed out, I told them they were speaking so loudly that while my brain ears could hear them I couldn’t & to try again.
Next time communication isn’t coming easily check your brain ears & check your para verbal communication. I guarantee it’ll make a difference.
- Varying your volume: speaking more quietly or a little more loudly (tip: it’s surprising how much power speaking more quietly has. I’ll often grab a group’s attention by beginning to speak loudly & then slowly lowering my volume.)
- Varying your pace: speak more slowly (tip: it’s truly magical how we unconsciously equate speaking slowly with more confidence).
- And watch your tone.
Et voila. Brain ears are happy. Communication improves. Easy peasy.
Annnnnnnd take action
- I’m offering an online course called Working Better Together, where we’ll tackle issues like conflict & communication. It’s based on my work with more than 20,000 participants in & from 115 countries. Email me if you want to get more info laragan (@) rpsinc.ca
- Check out last week’s post An unpaid bill, life lesson #38 + continuum thinking & try applying continuum thinking to your next irksome conflict.
- Click on this link to access a fun tool that’s designed to open up communication with your supervisor or use it for opening communication channels in general.