Some neuroscience facts to aid your focus for listening to others and remembering
Language processing for the brain is highly complex
Here are some facts to explain this:
- You have two ears and most of you are able to hear fairly well. When people are talking at the same time, or there are multiple voices (radio, TV or announcements) in earshot, your brain is not equipped to process all of what they are saying.
- You have two eyes and many of you can read well. Yet when you read, notice how you hear your own voice in your head (using that language circuit) and so, other voices around you, e.g. talking over a power point presentation, will be difficult to process or you will miss what you are reading.
- When you write you also hear yourself in your head and so, writing and listening to others is over-loading your language circuit. This means both the notes and what’s being said will be poorly captured, understood or remembered.
- Ever heard this said “I can’t hear myself think!” Now you know why. Your thoughts also use the brains language circuits.
(There are many videos on language processing on You Tube you can watch to learn more about this)
What does this mean for your world of work or study?
The secret to effective listening and therefore, remembering is paying focused attention. Not really a secret, but lets see how you can improve the listening and understanding experience.
5 tips for better listening in meetings or for group learning.
- Be disciplined about not speaking over others, or allowing others to speak at the same time. Having a person in charge of this can be helpful. I meet many people who are enthusiastic to get their point across and think they will forget it if they don’t say it there and then. When everyone is more focused, when they know they will get their turn and are patient, it calms down the need to butt in. You can still be passionate with you view, when it’s your turn!
- Discourage people from writing while others are speaking. Encourage people to wait. As mentioned earlier, when people write they are in their heads and not fully hearing what is being said.
- When a speaker is finished, have the listeners summarise what they heard. One by one they can also ask questions and get clarity. This is where the understanding happens, where misunderstanding can be clarified, details added or explained some more and a group gains a consistent message or instruction.
- Some up and agree as a group, key points, actions, learnings and outcomes of the topic. Everyone contributes to what these are, one by one.
- Now you can write. These outcomes can then be written down by each attendee and captured for the group as a follow up to reference next time.
As a leadership and Neuroscience coach listening is a key skill to develop and it’s hard work. Yet it is crucial to building relationships, rapport and trust. This disciplined approach, above, takes effort and for mastery takes practice and patience. The result, less mis-communication and high quality outputs from meetings.