QUOTES & WISDOM
TOP OF THE MIND
QUOTES & WISDOMfrom the Top of the Mind
QUOTES & WISDOM
Top of the Mind
More Info on Why People Don’t Listen
In my work as a corporate trainer, psychologist, and executive coach, I’m always being asked how to get others to listen. This is especially challenging when we are trying to convince someone to change their negative behavior.
Unfortunately, rather than listening to our suggestions, most people will either overtly or covertly reject this advice, and may even start arguing for the very behavior that we want them to change. This can be extremely frustrating, and often results in a debate about “who’s right,” which rarely produces a solution-focused conversation.
To become more effective in these types of interactions, we first need to understand the neuroscience behind the conflict. In other words, their middle brain, or limbic system (which is responsible for keeping us safe in dangerous situations) is interpreting our pointing out their negative behavior as dangerous or a threat, and throwing them down into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger (the brainstem). This is why they tend to react in such a defensive manner… they are coming from the “defensive brain.”
Therefore, if we indeed want others to listen to what we are saying, we must be willing to say it in a way that they hear as valuable. Or, as Najwa Zebian, a Lebanese-Canadian author, speaker, and educator would say, “Don’t see the worst in a person and expect them to see the best in you.”
I have taken this thought and changed it a bit to help those of us who would like to have more influence in our conversations with others. My version of this is, “We will never get others to trust our best, by pointing out their worst.”
You see, I think that this is really what we are wanting… i.e., we want others to trust what we are telling them as the valuable information we are meaning it to be. However, we now know that we will not accomplish this goal by pointing out their worst, or by trying to get them to stop their negative behavior, because this engages the part of the brain that only responds to threats.
Whether this is a friend, spouse, family member, our children, or someone who reports to us at work, if we truly want people to listen to and trust our best thoughts, we must be willing to speak to their best, or frame our suggestions in a way that engages their neocortex (the upper 80% of the brain and the part of the brain that makes executive decisions).
To do this, we must be in the clear, confident, creative part of our brain, which means that we can’t be feeding our stress, frustration, anger, or resentment. Not only will these negative emotions block our ability to access our best, they will be perceived by the other person as criticism and block their ability to hear or trust what we have to say.
Of course, this “connecting with their best” is easier said than done, which is why I only teach people how to influence in this more purposeful way after I have given them information on how to shift to their clear, confident, creative brain (the neocortex, what I call the Top of the Mind), and how to stay in this more purposeful, less reactive brain even when others are being difficult.
I have written a book that teaches this process (“Life from the Top of the Mind”) and I have the privilege of going around the world teaching individuals and organizations this process. While we don’t have the space here to go into the details of my philosophy, my hope is that simply seeing it from a neuroscience perspective can be helpful. In other words, there is a quote from Albert Einstein that says, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
We have now raised our awareness, or acquired new information that explains why people don’t listen, or why they reject our advice, (they are coming from the defensive or offensive part of the brain) and this knowledge can at least help us avoid driving them deeper into this lower brain by pointing out their worst.
Then, if our goal is truly to help them become more successful, we can learn to support this success by helping them choose new behavior that represents their best. And this will help them hear and trust what we have to say. Let me know if you would like my help in this process.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill