I’m confident that you would have experienced being in a conversation with someone, and you get a sense that they aren't really paying attention to you, maybe it’s not a sense, maybe its downright obvious that their attention has been hijacked. You notice their eyes not meeting yours, they’re checking a device, or their attention span has been shortened from device overuse. They may randomly comment but what they say is totally irrelevant to the thread of the conversation. Personally, I find this not only frustrating, but it quickly dials down my respect and trust in the other person.
By no means am I always an active listener angel, I notice my ability to pay attention diminishes when I am tired, stressed out or preoccupied with a project. I assume this may be the case for you too. What I have come to understand over time is that listening, like any other skill, can be improved and more importantly, our ears, eyes and for some of us our highly tuned empathic sensing provides a direct link to our hidden modes of communication.
There is something magical about being fully heard by another human. When we share ideas and experiences unencumbered by judgement or having someone want to solve our problems we feel liberated and connected. The shared space creates a deep connection with the other person increasing mutual trust, respect and sometimes a feeling of catharsis.
One of the biggest challenges in personal and professional relationships is creating space for effective two-way communication to occur. We need to manage both our internal and external environments effectively in order to do this.
Manage your External Environment to connect deeply.
One of the things I love to do is catch up with friends, not over a coffee, but for a walk-in nature. There are a number of reasons for this, the first being I love being in nature and all the benefits it brings, and secondly to create a space for undisturbed connection, nature has fewer background distractions that are often found in a café, no dobt you’ve experienced the clanging of coffee machines, conversations nearby reverberating off the tables, walls and floors, and the constant interruption of a staff member asking if the meal or coffee was ok.
Consciously choosing where you meet, or talk is a great start, then removing any distractions is always helpful. If you’re at home, put the TV on mute, or turn it off, put your phone on silent and pop it away and out of sight and for those of you with smart watches, there is nothing more frustrating than having a conversation with someone who repeatedly lifts their wrist to check notifications or interrupts the conversation to share that their watch was telling them that mum’s calling, but they won’t answer it. So, maybe turn of your vibrating notifications too.
When we converse over the phone or online, the same rules of deep engagement apply. Although you may not be in the same physical location, you can still be 100% present. Do your best to dial in from a location with as little distraction as possible away from pets, partners and children, turn off notifications and close down any other apps. When you do this your focused attention on the conversation will pay huge dividends for yourself and the relationship.
When scheduling time to be with another human be sure to use the time to be fully present for each other and allow for the natural flow of the conversation to take you to a place where nothing else exists, there’s no time, no one else and nothing else matters.
Notice your Internal Environment to be fully present.
When dealing with other people being able to share your thoughts and wishes effectively is a something most of us can do with some level of success. But we also have to be open to what others have to say. The most important aspect of creating and nurturing relationships begins with active listening. Active listening is an inside job and can be a challenge to master.
Most people confuse hearing with listening. This can lead to misunderstandings, arguments and frustration for both parties. If you are the one needing to be heard, and you’re not, you may end up lowering your respect levels and trust for the person you are with. We can't control other people’s actions or how they listen to us, however we can set boundaries or rules of engagement if someone is continually distracted when they are in our presence. (we’ll cover how to set boundaries in another article)
Active listening is an inside job, it requires awareness, curiosity and compassion. Often when communicating, our inbuilt filtering system prevents us from really hearing the other person. Our beliefs create confirmation bias, our assumptions cause misunderstanding, our predetermined judgements about a person or situation may stir up a perceptual defence and our emotional state may lead to us to only hearing what we want to hear.
We often think that it takes courage and confidence to share our deepest thoughts and to be heard, and it does, but it also takes awareness, courage and confidence to shut up and listen.
Become a great listener
Active listening is a skill any one can learn (and most of us need plenty of practice) Active listening will become your go to tool once you discover its power to improve personal and professional relationships. If you don't invest in becoming better at active listening, you will unconsciously discount other people’s perspective, ideas and experiences and they in turn will become emotionally distant (not a great thing in an intimate relationship) and they will no longer want to contribute to conversations or provide creative ideas (Impacting the progress of a business)
Active listening basics
The aim of Active Listening is to build respect, gather information, expand our perspective and increase understanding. In a world of constant distractions where our attention span has become less than that of a goldfish perhaps we can borrow a line from Mark Anthony’s request for attention in the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. Where he announces “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears"
It takes attention, focus and the willingness to accept what is being expressed without judgement. Can we lend our ears and eyes 100% to the person attempting to communicate with us?
Here are 5 tips to help you become an Active Listener Angel.
1. Pay Attention
2. Show You're Listening
3. Compassionate Curiosity
4. Defer Judgment
5. Respond Respectfully
Active listening is one of the many communication tools we can use to build trustworthy relationships. Make time to listen to the people that matter in your life, it doesn’t make sense to be too busy to listen to someone else's story, opinion, idea or point of view. Listening is a beautiful gift of our most precious resource ‘time’ that we can give to others allowing humanity to thrive and grow together!
p.s remember to have some fun!
Contributed by: Georgia Ellis
Contributed by Caterina Viterale
Reframing responsibility to help organisations, teams and individuals be better humans
Until recently, I have had a tug-of-war like relationship with the idea of responsibility for as long as I can remember. This recent shift felt like I was handed a key to a new understanding that nested in my mind and then expanded to create a form of internal freedom.
As if handed down by the magical powers that be directly into my awareness, I was offered a unique and transformative way to reshape how I look at, and understand, responsibility beyond what I had thought previously, which was always associated with a role, title or position.
I now consider this a framework, a concept, a potential mapping of sorts, for how we can navigate ourselves and each other through the terrain of modern living and all of its complexities, and in this article I will be sharing it with you.
So, grab yourself a glass of your favourite beverage, sit back and let’s go on a little meditative and contemplative ride of curiosity and wonder together about how we can potentially reshape how, and what, we think when it comes to responsibility.
Responsibility, for a very significant amount of my 32 years of life, has been an extremely heavy, yet liberating, topic and experience for me. On a personal level, it’s been extremely burdening. On a professional level, I have always thrived with some form of weight on my shoulders – a team to manage, a goal to hit, something to organise, pieces to put together.
Recognising why I have these two experiences of the same topic was something I really struggled to understand and master.
Why was I exceptional at managing a team, being a good leader, and exceeding professional goals, but I could barely manage my personal life?
Why was it different?
I couldn’t figure it out because the weight of my personal responsibility was too heavy for me to be able to look up, look around, and see things differently.
Then, one day, a few months ago whilst meditating, an entirely new way of looking at responsibility came to and through me, right when I was no longer looking to understand it.
And this is what I will share with you.
The New Understanding
“The application of one’s ability to provide an appropriate response to any moment or situation, whereby one has, or is perceived to have, something that is of benefit to someone or something, including themselves”.
Let’s highlight the many important, and specific, elements to provide us with the guidelines for putting this into practice, and break down this new way of thinking about response-ability.
Application: because the rest of the definition becomes completely useless if we do not APPLY it. Simples.
Ability: ability for humans is never one dimensional. It is both within and between the elements of physical, emotional and mental that we may or may not actually be able to do something.
I may know you have the intellectual capacity to fulfil a task based on past experience, but not know that you’re physically unable to do so in this moment because you’re exhausted from lack of sleep as your new born child is unwell. Or because you’ve started seeing a therapist about that childhood trauma no one knows about and it’s emotionally and physically exhausting you.
We may have assumptions about someone (colleague, friend, partner, parent, employee, neighbour, person at the checkout) with regards to their ability to fulfil a task, without considering the infinite number of factors that contribute to one’s ability to do so, even if it appears, they are, in fact, able to do so on face value.
This is where the co-founder of the Flow Genome Project Jamie Wheal’s ‘Playground Rules’ provides a handy rule to live by:
#2 “Benefit of the Doubt (Everyone's Doing Their Best!)”
Appropriate: This is about emphasising whether or not we have consciously assessed the situation and considered the response we are about to make is, in fact, as appropriate as we can assess it to be.
This requires a certain level of mental development and complexity - specifically the utilisation of a particular mental faculty, ‘perspective’.
How many perspectives outside of our own have we considered in our analysis of an appropriate response?
What internal space is this analysis coming from?
Are we angry, tired, hungry (or hangry), overly excited, focused on one perspective?
Does it feel rather cerebral, meaning, are we just thinking about it intellectually, or are we allowing for things such as empathy and compassion to enter our consideration of what’s appropriate?
The findings of our internal investigation provide important reflections and considerations for how we may expand what we consider appropriate.
Response: without getting into technicalities of dictionary meanings, I feel the significance of response is that, in embodied practice, it is very grounded. It is clear, open, attentive. It is a state of assessing as much available information as possible whilst knowing that even in this state we are unable to know absolutely everything. Thus, remaining open to the information we receive as a unique opportunity to add to our knowledge base.
I want to emphasise also what it is not, and more specifically what it isn’t in comparison to a reaction.
Typically, when using ‘reaction’ in conversation, there is an assumption that the reaction was a direct and immutable outcome as a result of a specific cause that is often emotionally explosive; it’s automated and without control or influence.
This is definitely not what I feel a response to be.
Response seeks to find the causation(s) of the present moment, assesses it in as many ways as it seems appropriate that is the most expansive and inclusive, then consciously CHOOSES an outcome.
A moment or situation: this brings the mind’s attention, and the practical application of this response-ability principle, to the here and now (whatever present moment we find ourselves in).
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not in five minutes time, nor the previous encounters with this person/s in the environment we are in.
It’s the here and now, which requires a specific state of mind that has the ability to absorb it for what it is, and not what it has been previously or what we anticipate it to be.
Has, or is perceived to have: sometimes we know what we have, and sometimes we need others to provide the information to bring it to our attention.
This is particularly useful in times when we forget that we have a skill, resource or piece of information that is so automatic in our existence that we forget we have it.
Take speaking our native language as an example.
Most people use it so frequently and have become so acquainted with its existence and use that they forget that it is, in fact, a skill that could be used to help others – a foreigner, a blind person who is unable to read/see something, or even as a means to voice an injustice/issue that requires attention.
Something: it’s important to remember that something isn’t always an object – it can be an idea, a word, a resource, and in fact, something can even be a nothing. The thing that you may be able to provide as an appropriate response is, well, absolutely nothing (silence, for example, when listening to someone share their story).
Benefit: most often, we are used to considering benefit as strictly on the positive side of the negative to positive spectrum. It is important to note, however, that benefit may also include an outcome where there is a reduction in the negative, thus, moving the indicator within the spectrum closer to the positive side and away from the extreme negative side.
Someone, or something: we live on a planet, that doesn’t just have people. It has objects, other living organisms, constructs, ideas, beliefs, houses and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g else that exists outside of our present here and now. Therefore, it isn’t just about responding to people within a moment or situation, it is also guiding us towards paying attention to, and considering the benefit of, e-v-e-r-y single thing that exists.
Including ourselves: well, because, most of us just don’t think of ourselves, especially when it comes to responsibility! It’s often housed in the environment of others – our roles and duties to others and things outside of ourselves. This can create an array of negative consequences. From illness, to stress, to poor health, poor sleep, no money, poor relationships, minimal joy, and everything else that you can think of when you take a moment to reflect on all the ways you’ve neglected yourself – your body, your wants and needs, your desires, your feelings and emotions, your experiences.
Now that we’ve delved a bit deeper into the elements of this alternative perspective of response-ability, let’s ask a really important question.
Why is this even important?
If we consider many of the issues we face globally, much of it stems from a lack of response-ability.
“How many times have I seen someone (including myself) dismiss an idea or action - a response – when something clearly needed to be done?”
For example, a task at work that wasn’t part of your “job title/duties” so you ignored it; a conversation you avoided having about something that needed addressing but was put off and the issue became far greater than it needed to be.
The list goes on.
And when we collectively leave a large amount of small things unchecked or ignored, they build to HUGE mountains of things that suddenly seem too overwhelming.
I mean, just take a look at the news over the last year, where do we begin?
More deeply, if we consider the global social, economical, political and environmental landscape, a significant portion of it involves us needing to pick up the pieces of other people’s lack of response-ability - we are constantly having to utilise our time, energy and resources rectifying the consequences of others behaviour, decisions and actions, as opposed to showing up in the world and living a life that is full of richness and the freedom to create playfully.
We are devoting the one resource that we have always known to be finite and irreversible in the physical plane – time – to resolving issues as a result of a lack of response-ability of our fellow humans in the past, instead of basking in the playfulness of existence itself.
And, sometimes there’s no stronger blockage than a perception of finite time that limits our ability to be conscious and aware in our actions.
This is an important segue into an often ignored, yet extremely influential element that can dramatically impact one’s ability to practice response-ability.
Burdened people burden people.
Photo by Ben White
We’ve all heard the common phrase: ‘hurt people hurt people’, but when do we consider the reality that often, burdened people burden people?
Think about the Manager who is overworked, stressed out, and feeling overwhelmed by the disproportionate ratio of their skills to the tasks required of them by those above (and sometimes, below) and so unfairly demands more from those they manage and increases their workload?
The single parent, working their asses off (or are unable to), struggling to overcome a past trauma and so demands more from their child, intentionally or unintentionally?
The person in a position of power who is burdened by a personal situation, who comes to work carrying that weight into a decision-making process, and then chooses the less personally consequential option that has an increased workload on others, as opposed to the harder, but more appropriate, option?
What happens in all of these situations?
The person burdened, begins to unwittingly burden those around them.
Whether by having to take on tasks, or holding space for them to react to their stresses (as opposed to processing their emotions in a healthy manner), the weight gets distributed to others who are already carrying the burden of the people and environments they’ve previously been in.
And so the burdened becomes the burdener.
When we’re burdened, we cannot perform optimally, and at our best; we cannot give to ourselves, each other and the here and now moment we find ourselves in. Essentially, we cannot be response-able.
So, what can we do?
2. Remember that during times of emotional, physical and/or mental internal imbalance, people are not at their best, and therefore, we need to recognise the inability of the other person to provide what we believe to be an appropriate response.
A potential tool for these moments would be to become curious and ask the person we are about to request something from, “what is your current energetic, emotional, and physical capacity?”
We could even go so far as to ask them to rate their levels out of 10 or 100, and if used in a team environment, whoever has the highest score may be able to take the reins for a moment to allow others to regain their equilibrium.
3. Use the description of ‘response-ability’ as a principle to live by, outside of roles, duties, status and labels – let’s perceive it as a guiding principle.
Here are nine ideas I invite you to consider to help make the shift from responsibility to response-ability a little more easier collectively.
1. It’s a paradox that we must develop in to
We must both let go of, and embrace, the past and future in helping us navigate the now.
In the context of providing an appropriate response, we must clear ourselves of the past conditioning and future assumptions that blind us to providing an appropriate response, whilst also utilising past knowledge and holding future ideas and plans to help us navigate the situation to the most appropriate and beneficial outcome.
This can be challenging for some, as it requires a high level of mental complexity that many of us are not yet capable of, or are still developing into.
Therefore, we must consider this a journey towards response-ability mastery on both an individual and collective level due to the navigation towards, and transformation to, living this as a guiding principle.
Developing self awareness through mindfulness practices such as meditation can assist us in the optimisation of processing throughout the here and now and maximise the ease at which we can practice this principle fully.
2. We’re all going to be students, and teachers
No one is a master at this, nor will they be. Every moment we are growing, evolving and changing, as is everything else that exists, and therefore, there will always be more to learn, to adapt to and to consider.
What’s that playground rule again we need to follow?
“Benefit of the Doubt (Everyone's Doing Their Best!)”
3. It’s never going to be 100%
There’s ALWAYS going to be some form of “problem”. This perspective isn’t about solving and eradicating all of the tension in the world, it’s about limiting the amount of unnecessary realities we’re creating that require subsequent solutions - the burdened burdening others included.
We must ensure our thinking going forward is built upon a foundation of knowing there is no final and complete utopian destination.
4. Try to refrain from worrying about over there, focus on your here
Until your ‘here’ is functioning optimally and beneficially, refrain from utilising your valuable energy, time and resources on the “over there” situations – trust that they are being dealt with by those there, experiencing their own here and now within it and utilising these same principles.
Make sure your house is in check first, then go out and help others optimise theirs.
5. There’s no reason not to play and have fun
This piece was written deliberately with a hint of playfulness to provide a glimpse of the light-heartedness that we can bring to the spaces we occupy.
It may feel as though we have a big job to do – personally, professionally or collectively as a human race - but if we bring an element of play and child-like wonder, we can get the job done in a much faster and cohesive manner.
Maybe we can start asking ourselves “how can I make this a more enjoyable process?”
6. Trust ourselves, each other and the bigger picture – all of which we know very little about
The greatest of minds have always proclaimed that the more they know, the more they know not.
Let’s take that piece of advice on face value and act accordingly.
7. We have a choice
Response-ability is a tool we can use to help us CREATE the world we want to live in – it gives us agency, sovereignty and conscious engagement, and not simply be a passer-by in this great adventure that is life as a human on this planet.
Let’s CHOOSE to be the person/s we want to see in the world.
8. Not everyone is as keen as you are
When we think something is important, we forget, or simply fail to consider, that whilst we are having an experience right now of something having our focused attention, so too are the people around us who we are interacting with.
We must remember that no matter how important or significant we feel and believe, or even know, a thing that is requiring our attention is, we must accept and forgive those who cannot give us the energy, focus and attention we may want or need.
9. Response-ability is always a 100% game
If you are conscious, and in a body that is able to move with conscious engagement, then you are 100% responsible for your response-ability - remember, existence equals responsibility.
No situation is about breaking down who contributed what percentage of 100% of the outcome.
It’s about taking personal accountability for our own actions, choices, and behaviours (including what we do not do), and recognising that we are 100% responsible for the contribution we made in any given moment.
We shift our focus and analysis from “they did A, B and C!” (usually blame) to “what did I do here?” (self empowerment and mastery).
The more I think about this, the more I feel there’s so much to say, develop and find clarity on how the actual practical application of such a framework fits across our lived experiences.
Though, essentially, I think it can be summed up by being more considerate of others and the environments we find ourselves in, and shifting our focus and attention from other people’s choices, actions and behaviours to our own.
If we at least start from there, I trust the magnificence of who we are on a fundamental level - kindness, compassion, openness, curiosity, playfulness, joyfulness - will help us find our way.
Back in 2011, Bradley Cooper starred in the box office hit movie “Limitless”. The plot follows Edward Morra (Cooper), a struggling writer, who is introduced to a nootropic drug, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and produce optimal performance.
Have you had days where you wished you could fully utilize your cognitive abilities just like Coopers character?
The thing is, few of us realize that there are people out there doing just that… and it doesn’t involve taking a “smart pill”. Ordinary people like you and I (and some extraordinary athletes) are already tapping into this altered state of consciousness.
Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everything we thought we knew about high performance upside down.
Imagine a life that required less grit, no more working hard to create productive habits, and dismantling the 10,000 hours theory. From studies conducted across a number of fields and headed by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler, Co founders of the ‘Flow Genome Project,’ there is a surprising short cut to obtaining optimal consciousness. People across different industries are learning how to harness rare and what used to be controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition.
Flow is the optimal state of consciousness, a state of mind in which you are able to perform at your peak, separated from time, focused solely on the task at hand.
Also known as being "in the zone", it's a state of consciousness that in the past has been difficult to reach and maintain. Most commonly it is experienced by athletes performing high-adrenaline, extraordinary feats of endurance, strength and concentration in sports like mountaineering, rock climbing, surfing, kayaking and so on. In these extreme situations, they are able to get into 'flow' or 'the zone' which enables them to survive and thrive even in the harshest and most demanding of conditions.
Until recently, flow has been inaccessible for those outside of these extreme scenarios, leaving them unable to reach this advanced state of consciousness. However separate research conducted by Dr Joe Dispenza and the Flow Genome Project Founders is showing us that we can access this state and tap into its benefits in the workplace.
“A flow state is a state of consciousness which you feel at your best and perform at your best”
By using MRI and brain scanning techniques, and analyzing what it is that athletes do to enter this state, Kotler has reached a great understanding of flow. While Dispenza has been using brain scans to better understand Gamma brainwaves, which is linked to being in flow and how the brain (when in gamma or flow) produces a super levels of awareness and consciousness along with a heightened state of wakefulness.
Now, by adopting the right habits, altering your behaviors, and adopting a growth mindset, you can access flow in your day-to-day life, unlocking enormous potential at work.
How to tell if you’re in a state of flow according to Kotler and Wheals book ‘Stealing Fire’:
1. You feel no sense of self (Selflessness)
2. Time dilates and dissipates (Timelessness)
3. The activity flows magically (Effortlessness)
4. You feel tapped into inspiration and information (Richness)
“Information richness is a feeling of a high resolution download of realization and possibility that seems to emerge from the world around you” Jason Silva
While there are a number of different methods you can use to prime yourself for an optimal state of consciousness, here are 4 of the most accessible ways to reach flow.
1. HAVING CLEAR GOALS
Understanding WHAT you are doing and WHY you are doing it is critically important. Knowing exactly what you need to achieve at the present moment allows your mind to be free from distractions and helps to unlock greater focus on your current task, and get into flow.
2. SERIOUS CONCENTRATION
Blocking yourself from the outside world – distractions like your phone, social media, gossiping, can help you move into the state of flow. Limiting the number of things your attention is divided between allows greater concentration and maximum attention directed towards what you are trying to achieve.
3. SKILLS/CHALLENGE BALANCE
There is a range between difficulty and simplicity of a task in which the capability of the brain can be unlocked. Too difficult a task leads us to disengage and try to escape the task out of a kind of primal fear. If it is too simple, then we disengage due to boredom. Only between these two, when doing a task that stretches you slightly beyond normal, is the possibility for achieving flow possible.
Meditation sharpens your mental abilities, but by learning to produce more gamma brain waves, you will use your brain in its greatest capacity. It can be as simple as putting on your headphones, listening to relaxing music. And then, when your brain and body are relaxed and blissful, focus on love and compassion. Neuroscientists believe that people can train themselves to produce more of the gamma frequency and it is believed that focusing on compassion and love is one way to do this. It makes sense when you look at elite athletes,– they love what they’re doing, and they’re immersed in what they love – so gamma is a natural state of consciousness for them!
While there are a number of different ways you can maximize your ability to enter flow, these four tips are a great place to start… and great way to tap into your limitless potential.
Contributor: Georgia Ellis, Founder of Blue Chip Minds.
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