Why is it when you desperately need to pee you can’t hear what someone is saying? You may be in a meeting, in a workshop or at the dry cleaners, but wherever you are, and whatever the topic, if you’re trying to control your bladder you can’t really focus on anything else. The reason is simple yet often ignored.
When our physical body is under pressure (racing pulse, too cold, too hot, need to pee, need to eat, need more water) it tends to shut down access to our higher order thinking in order to focus on getting the body back to a comfortable state. This means when we are preoccupied with how hungry we are, or how much we are busting for the loo, our ability to access our logic and reasoning goes out the window along with our hearing. The more preoccupied we are, (to deal with our body in stress) the more we shut off outside input.
So what? Well, the so what is that if you’re trying to ‘run an idea past someone’ who has just come in from a run at lunch time or you’ve just got to cover the last 4 agenda items even though you’re already 20 minutes past break time in the meeting, don't bother. No one is listening anymore. Not properly anyway. You are likely to get their default responses (because these take less cognitive resources), which are typically more risk averse and not properly considered.
If we want to be heard properly we need to appreciate the headspace people are in. Just because we might be ready to speak, doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to listen. A window of opportunity means nothing if no one is home.
Tips for ensuring a clear head for listening:
- Before we begin would you like a glass of water?
- Let’s take a 5 minute stretch break and then start again.
- Before making this decision lets take a walk around the block and clear our minds a bit.
- Take a few deep even breaths to calm your state, then try again.
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