Somanaut's Blog

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Communicating

Why do people read to confirm their existing reality, rather than to get new perspectives? Why do we all hear more of what we agree with, and drop challenging details that might force us to rethink our world view?

 

These are perennial questions. It is frustrating to try to communicate, and find limited success. Some blame gender, some blame privilege, some blame intelligence or lack thereof, but I want to look at our fundamental neurological biases, and the perspectives that we create from them.

conversation

New information is change. We can tolerate a limited amount of change. This is a biological reality. We can not afford to be wrong about in a crucial encounter. A new animal, a new food, a new kind of environments- all these can be fatal in moments. Our whole being is designed to limit change to keep us alive.

How much we can accept varies according to our resources and stress. In a physical sense this might mean we can survive underwater for as long as we have breath. This could be affected by our cognitive function- how far away is air? and our emotional reaction- pleasure at being in the quiet depths, or fear- which alters our metabolism, using our air supply a bit faster.

So we see that ourĀ perceived resources and perceived stress matter in a very physical way. Changing our perceptions is powerful. The shift from terror to calm can increase our chances of survival. And vice versa! Fight/flight is useful, and meditating on the approach of death may not always be the best coping strategy.

On the interpersonal level, we can titrate our communication. Offer one drop of new information, then wait to see how the reaction happens. It is understandable that we might add more and more information when we are not getting the intended response. But if we consider how everyone is wired to limit change, we can see the skill in matching our communication to the amount our listener can accept. More information does not add to the conversation, instead it provoke fight/flight/freezing/shut down. Once these survival systems are engaged , it can be a long time before the listener will be open to our input.

Next time you try to alter someone else’s perception, remember that there are sharp limits. People are not being dense, they are surviving! The limits vary, and can be hard to define or predict.

Start small. Steer your listener toward resources (enhance their perception of their own strength). Give them time to integrate. Bigger ideas need more time, but since you can’t know what is big for someone else, go slowly and get feedback.

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June 1, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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