Humans are blessed with language. And with 2 eyes, 2 ears and one mouth. Coincidence? Many of us have heard the old adage of listening twice as much as speaking, as a foundation for sound relating. Many a long-term happily married couple will confirm that this is indeed so. But what about the eyes, why do we need 2 of them?
Psychologists and behavioural scientists tell us that body language may be a more important skill to develop and understand than the spoken word. What do these experts have in common with a 3-year old child? More than one might think, and less…. The average 3-year old can immediately tell when meeting a new person, whether this person should be trusted. He or she does this by observing the person’s body language – is the new person comfortable with himself and displaying compassion, or is he putting on a mask. Masks undermine trust…
And that is where the similarity ends. The child trusts her gut, her instinct, based on observing, with both eyes, in this case the body language of a stranger. There is no overlay of excuses and stories – just what the child observes. The scientist has fancy equipment to record all body movements, which are then analysed in great detail and in slow motion. Hypotheses (stories) are made to explain the analysis. Conclusion are (eventually) drawn.
The logical next question: So who makes more mistakes? I suspect it might be the scientist. This is because within each of us, even the 3-year old, we have the most complex computer known. This human computer has a database of stored information dating back as far as evolution itself. However, the scientist learns to switch her ‘human computer’ off so as not to introduce human bias…..
The irony here is that we expect the 3-year old to grow up, to learn, to become wise and discerning, so that he can be trusted amongst adults, function in our adult society. But in the process, as adults, many of us have lost our trust in using our eyes for body language cues, and our intuition. Worse, we prefer to listen to our prejudices and then voice our opinions, rather than to see with our two eyes. We tend to trust in what a person promises us, rather than to see for ourselves whether their body is echoing that commitment or trustworthiness, or not.
Back to relationships: could it be that at the root of poor relationships frequently is poor communication? Could it be that in such relationships the partners talk more than they listen, and do not see, truly see? What if we were to re-capture and cultivate our own 3-year-old ability to tune into what our eyes are seeing, and what this elicits within us. What if we were tuned into body language, as well as the spoken word, and into our intuition. What if we trust these sources of truth, within our relationships.
This need not be an either/or situation. But if I am able to not just listen to what you are saying, but hear the emotion, the meaning behind the words, if I speak less and listen more, and if I do not just look, but really see what the other person’s body is showing me, I might have a better understanding and make wiser decisions.
One of the cornerstones of just about every coaching engagement is relating. How do I use language, for language defines how I see the world. How much am I able to tune into what others are saying – do I get the full meaning? And the most powerful question of all: how am I relating to myself? Do I just tell myself stories, convince myself, or am I truly listening to and aware of my body, my emotions and my inner wisdom?