004 The Body Language of Listening
Body language can be cause AND effect. For example, when we have rapport with someone, we tend to exhibit certain behaviors (matching, mirroring, eyebrow flash, etc). If we want to establish rapport, we can start by intentionally exhibiting those same behaviors.
So it is with listening.
When you are listening intently, you will show the 3 behaviors covered here. Likewise, when you want to listen intently (but aren’t doing so), you can exhibit these 3 behaviors and you will begin to listen more intently.
Let's cover the 3 components of the body language of listening:
#1 Slightly Tilt Your Head
Component number one is to slightly tilt your head.
Think about it. You've seen many animals, right? If they hear a sound, there's something that's interesting. What do they do? They tilt their heads. They move their ears. They angle themselves to hear the thing better. Right? You’ve seen cute pictures of kittens or puppies that when a sound is made and they cock their head.
You actually do the same. Don’t do it abruptly like they do when they first hear the sound. But with your head slightly tilted to the side.
#2 Expose Your Neck
Component number two is to expose the neck.
By “expose your neck”, I don't mean exposed skin per se. If you're wearing a headscarf or a neck scarf or anything like that, that's fine. Open up the space between the chin and the chest - no matter what you’re wearing.
Why does this help? Well, let's go back to animals…
Have you ever seen a cat or a dog stretch its underbelly or act like it wants to be rubbed? It only does that when it trusts the person there. Right?
They only do that at a time of trust, at a time of safety, at a time of comfort.
It’s the same thing for us with our necks. Now, we're not necessarily asking other people to rub our necks, LOL. But when we feel safe and when we feel comfortable, we slightly expose our neck. This is something we do normally.
When we are uncomfortable, we tend to cover it. We might put our hand over our chin. We might play with a necklace. We may pull the collar forward or a vest forward or a jacket forward or put something between us. We might cover our chest and the lower portion of our neck.
Here’s why: your neck is loaded with vital equipment - your airway, your esophagus, your spine, your jugulars and your carotids. It's an essential area.
It is so vital, it's where predators attack their prey. They go for the neck.
We protect it when we're uncomfortable and we expose it when we're comfortable.
So by doing step number one is to slightly cock the head. Step number two is to open up the space, to slightly expose the neck. When you do so, you're conveying that you feel safe and that it is safe. And therefore, the other person feels it.
Remember. People experience body language. They're not sitting there saying to themselves, “Oh, wow. She's tilting her head and exposing her neck.” We're not doing that. We're not calculating their body language. We're experiencing it.
When you expose your neck, you are inducing an experience that it is safe here.
#3 Nod Your Head
Component number three is to nod. Simply nod at certain points in the conversation. Nodding is an indication of agreement and/or understanding. We do it naturally.
BONUS #4 Reflect The Emotion Being Expressed
If there were to be a fourth main component, it would be to express the emotion that the other person is expressing. Mirror their emotion.
If they expressed that they recently lost a loved one, feel that. If you feel it, you will reflect the emotion of experiencing loss.
Recap of the Essential Components of the Body Language of Listening:
- Tilt your head slightly
- Expose your neck
- Reflect the Expressed Emotion
Listening occurs while you are silent. But when your voice is silent, your body language is saying:
- “You are safe.”
- “I hear you.”
- “I’m interested in what you are saying.”
- “I care.”
If you ever find yourself not in a mood to listen - you're distracted, you're thinking about other things - start with the body language of listening. Start by just slightly exposing your neck a bit and tilting your head. Then nod appropriately. Express appropriate emotion. Do this and you will tend to listen better.
Now go do it. Start with the very next interaction you have.
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