“In our society, the ideal self is bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight. We like to think that we value individuality, but mostly we admire the type of individual who’s comfortable “putting himself out there.”” – Susan Cain, Author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts.
Individuals who are mostly outspoken, thrives in the company of other people. Contrastingly, those who prefer a more introspective way of expression, more often than not, let others do the talking, and feel most energized when they are alone or are in quieter environments.
And me? Well, I belong to the side of the introspective, or in Emergenetics terms, First-Third Expressive. In a roomful of people, I tend to the quieter side of the group, and prefer to listen more than talk. It’s nothing personal; I am simply more comfortable to express myself in this manner.
Many, who share the same preference as me, have learnt to be more gregarious in situations where they need to be heard. However, it’s not to say that one has to be outspoken to be able to have any kind of influence. Many facets of communication are commonly considered, but listening may be one of the most overlooked skills to effective communication.
My personal experience has led me to learn that listening is as powerful as talking. It’s what you listen, how you listen and where you apply listening to, that can achieve great success in positive influence.
Listening to oneself
Being introspective – evaluating one’s thoughts, feelings and actions – allows one to gain control in one’s life. The introspective ones are usually comfortable with spending time alone with listening to their thoughts, and this introspection brings clarity and vision. Solitude allows one’s mind to remove clutter, wander, process problems and make new discoveries.
Solitude also plays an integral part to creativity; Charles Dickens’ long solidary walks played a large part in his great works. I find that to be particularly true as a designer myself. I am often most inspired when I walk around town alone, and get creative inspiration by observing things around me. My thoughts are allowed to ‘breathe’ and I am able to visualize my ideas better (having a preference for conceptual thinking).
More than just a passing intuition, our cave-dwelling ancestors have relied on their gut feelings to survive life-threating mishaps, such as whether to flee when the predator is approaching or when to take cover when the lightning strikes.
The brain has two types of memory: explicit and implicit, with the latter believed to be linked to gut feelings. Explicit memory is the information absorbed through intentional effort, while implicit memory is information that gets absorbed subconsciously. Implicit memory triggers the gut instinct when making decisions, usually based on past experiences, and triggers learning that the explicit mind may not even recall. One’s gut feel can grow to be more accurate with every experience and interaction.
With so many distractions in our lives and the need to have evidence with every decision made, it may not be easy to listen to ourselves and what our gut is telling us. However, studies have shown that trusting your gut when making major life decisions bring better results than trusting your logical thinking. One study found that car buyers who went with their gut feel and made a quick decision to purchase the car felt satisfied with their purchase 60% of the time, while those who made a deliberated decision were satisfied only 25% of the time.
It is often said that the gut feeling is more related to one who has a Social preference thinking attribute. Yet, even for someone who does not have a red preference like me, I find that I still need to take time to stop, and listen to what my gut instinct tells me. It takes time to trust your gut, but it starts with simply listening first.
Nobody really talks about listening to one’s body. Yet, it is very telling, when we take the time and effort to do so. When our body tell us it feels tired, the first thought that comes to mind is to get a caffeine fix to push it through. Instead of slowing down or getting some rest, we look for quick fixes to suppress or avoid the fatigue so that we can continue rushing from one task to another – because getting things done always seem to be the priority.
Tuning in to the way one’s body sends messages brings an awareness that can prevent heath issues and the key to a balanced life. I have learnt that by paying attention to what my body needs, I am able to know what my body needs, to rebalance itself. This has helped me in my physical wellness, and keeping a healthy lifestyle.
Listening to others
Anyone with ears can hear, but it takes aural skills to listen effectively. Good listeners let their conversation partner speak and share his or her ideas, thus making the other feel valued. One is more willing to share when they feel their input is respected, and this creates a healthy cycle of communication and growth. Harvard neuroscientists revealed that when we let others talk about themselves, they experience as much pleasure as when they were to receive food, money and sex.
“Here’s the thing: When you become brilliant at listening, people feel that you care about them. When they feel you care about them, they begin to care about you. And when people care about you, your success becomes a part of how they define their success.” – Robin S. Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari.
Listening to what the other have to say takes commitment and focus. I have learnt that to effectively listen, I have to first remove any bias or preconceived notion I have. This helps me to listen to the other with an open mind, and understand what he or she is saying truly.
A UCLA research found that 55% of communication comes from body language. Even the most seemingly insignificant body gesture can reveal emotions and mental state of your conversation partner. Even without any verbal exchange, one can observe the interaction through signals the body sends and react accordingly. What you say communicates only about half of what people hear – the rest comes from your body language.
Even when I don’t speak, I realise my body can tell a million words. I have learnt to be more conscious of the way my body is angled, the eye contact I give, as well as my hand gestures. All these are signals for the other to read, and it is important that I send the right message across. Likewise, I listen to how the other behaves with me, to see what he or she needs. A slight shift of the eyes can signal me to reengage the conversant in a livelier way.
“It struck me so forcibly that I shall never forget him. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave me, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You’ve no idea what it meant to be listened to like that.” Dale Carnegie quoted a man speaking fondly of Sigmund Freud in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.
Being on the quiet and introspective side should not inhibit you from being the powerful influence you can be. In fact, listening is as powerful as talking.
Individuals with different behaviours of expression build their careers, life and relationships differently, so find out what is best for you to reach your full potential!