May 15, 2009

The Power of Your Face (Active Listening)

Filed under: Emo (EQ) — Robert John Ed @ 4:41 pm

And I’m not talking about MYFACE or social networking.  I’m referring to the power of nonverbal communications and specifically facial expressions.  Recently, a couple times people have misconstrued the facial expressions I was wearing as a reflection on what they were saying or doing, negatively.  A normal reaction I suppose, being that this is a pillar of interpersonal communique.  Here’s the issue, I wasn’t actually displaying emotion (in this instance consternation) based on what the other person was doing, it was based on internal reflection and feeling an impulse to improve.

There is a big problem here, often my internalized thought process is reflective, going over a matter that warrants exploration or examination for self improvement or clarity.  I have no issue exuding consternation/anxiety/disappointment with my own actions, performance, thoughts or ideas when they are in need of improvement.  In fact, I deliberately attempt to shield anything that could be construed as negative expression during another persons monologue or share of conversation.  Simply said, I don’t wince or roll my eyes when other people are speaking; I attempt to disseminate the information and condense their thoughts into palatable pieces I can recall at another time.  If I do hold dispersion toward their ideas, it’s from a constructive stand point and isn’t shared non-verbally, it’s shared  through agreed upon feedback loops.  At the very least that’s what is set out toward.

The problem is that I wasn’t actively listening, I was being hyper critical of myself and that’s being picked up on as a negative reaction to someone else and their actions or speaking.  Actively listening is incredibly important to build positive relationships.  Truly listening to others (not just waiting for your turn to speak, which we are all occasionally guilty of) is not necessarily easy.  It takes practice and cognitive focus.  The reason being that our minds are constantly juggling many things and we simply can’t do that while attempting to really listen.  You have to set down the other pieces for a time and pick them up again afterward.

Many people live their lives in attempts to be “in the moment” or by exuding mindfulness.  Mindfulness as an idea is to consistently be focused on the here and now.  Which doesn’t mean to forget about the future, but that the energy you exude is best spent on those things in front of you.  It’s a simple way to stop obsessing about any number of things in your life that cause anxiety or worry.  It’s also a great practice when working within teams!  To focus only on your own work and ideas is not only a bad form for overall quality of work, it’s uncaring and unkind.  Though this isn’t something that has been a consistent pitfall for me, two incidences in as many weeks warrants (ahem) reflection and analysis.

Bottom line, everyone needs to be cognizant of their non-verbal communication and the propensity of that to affect others.  Being aware of social context is a big deal, being aware of your own actions and interpretation is critical to team success. Understanding that is easy enough, acting upon it continually is where we struggle.


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