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Listening fast and slow

When someone is talking to us they speak at about 125 words per minute, but our brain is capable of processing up to 800 words per minute.

Which is why it can be difficult sometimes to focus and really listen to someone without our mind wandering, especially if they speak slowly or are having trouble finding words. It’s known though that when we care about them, what they are saying and their need to speak, we are able to listen more patiently.

Neuroscientists have discovered through brain scans that when we listen to someone patiently, in a gentle unhurried fashion, we literally ignite their brain. Blood flows more freely through the conscious and sub-conscious structures (cerebellum, cingulated gyrus and basal ganglia – for those who like to smash it in Table Quizes!) in the brain of someone who feels appreciated, valued and heard. In addition, when someone is relaxed, their heart rhythms settle and this stimulates their cortex to function better. Criticism has the opposite effect and shuts down brain activity.

So we think better when we are feeling appreciated, and our thinking deteriorates when we are feeling criticised.

All the more reason to be the Quiet Leader; the one who listens, the one who creates space for thinking, the one who calms their own mind in order to let another mind get to work.

For someone who normally does a lot of listening, I have been given the gift of being listened to myself recently. What an empowering and supportive experience it is to be at the receiving end. And what an extraordinarily lovely reminder of the impact it has.

This week, I hope you get to be listened to, and to have an opportunity to be the listener.

Until next time, take care,



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