Turn It Down Already! (The Essence of Listening Skills)

I’ve struggled to accept this fact for almost the whole of my life, but for the most part, we are bad listeners. Communication problems are often at the heart of the issues most of us deal with – at the office, in the car with the kids, over dinner with our spouse, and pretty much everywhere we go.

Listening skills should NOT be a latent talent that only a few of us possess, something that is mocked or worse, both of those things. We need beacons of light to demonstrate the awesome prowess of listening, and I know examples exist – I’m looking at you Steven Universe, and your genius creators for one!

Why You Are A Bad Listener

I’m not going to pretend to know what makes people into bad listeners, but I can tell you that there are behaviours out there, which I am just as guilty of as the next person, that contribute to bad listening, and even moreso, bad communication. I’ve gone over the basics of communication already, and I’ve even dedicated some efforts to addressing the ever-so-subtle interpersonal communication, but stopping behaviours can be just as important as starting up new ones, dear readers.

Have you considered that you think of yourself too much, for starters? We all do it, we think of how information is going to impact us, but when you only focus on your own challenges, it just won’t jive in good listening. On top of that, your mind can wander from one topic to the next if you don’t concentrate, and when you do focus on what’s being said, you risk getting caught up in the topic, and completely missing the point at hand. Also, being distracted by other things can make it worse – deadlines, illness, problems in other life arenas all vie for your attention. You need to do yourself a favour and put a pint in it until the chat is over.

And we haven’t even considered how nurture, in the eternal struggle between nature, screwed the pooch on your listening training growing up. What, you say? There was training on listening skills? Well not exactly, etiquette isn’t a universal truth shared with all students.

Of course if someone decides to start cutting you down, you might get defensive, and that’s when you fail to hear what has been shared. On the opposite side of the equation are the helpers who assess a problem, and attempt to fix, without an invitation. And so Mr. Fix-it stops properly listening.

The Types of Listening Skills

Now that you’ve gotten a good dose of where we fail to listen, I think it might be a good time to address what kinds of listening you will need to apply to improve your social standing.

Critical – this for is when you need to evaluate information and either formulate a solution, an opinion or make a decision.

Appreciative – listening for the sake of personal growth and enjoyment. Movies, music and theatre all come to mind.

Discriminative – you need to determinate a dialect, members in a group, if a conversation is amicable or turning violent and a host of other nonverbal cues related to someones feelings.

Relationship – listening to understand someone, whether they need to vent or not, you have to show your support by retaining the details and feeling what they feel.

Comprehensive – focus on the speaker and the message they are sharing, in order to take direction and then apply it to your own role.

How To Become An Artful Listener

Ultimately, if you want to become an excellent listener you are going to have to learn how to be present. This is not a metaphor for becoming a present, but it is a gift nonetheless.

Forbes wrote a great article on the 10 key steps to skillful listening, and the brilliant thing about this post is that while you may need to practice one or all of these steps to get better, you can totally fake it till you make it, because so many of us are terrible at listening already.

But what are the steps you ask?

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed
  3. Keep an open mind
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying
  5. Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions”
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding
  8. Try to fell what the speaker is feeling
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues

You’ll notice that these steps all relate to the previous symptoms of bad listening AND simultaneously recognize the 5 types of listening skills we need to employ. On top of that, the author suggests that at the end of your conversation, to summarize any actionables and agreements that were made.

It might not feel comfortable at first, but over time it will become second nature to you. And lastly, while I didn’t spell it out above,you need to create a receptive environment for listening – turn off all the digital distractions and refrain from bad habits like yawning, frowning or fidgeting.

theories Summarized

Silence might be golden, but it is not guarantee of authenticity. Fool’s gold can look just as valuable to the untrained eye. The skilled person takes on listening as an active skill which will always need to exercised to maintain your health and wealth. It shouldn’t be a mere theory that there is gold in them hills, let’s get out there and level the playing field folks!

And that’s all the wisdom I’ll dole out today.

Tim!

Vacation, Recreation, Sensation (Penticton BC)

Timely posts are some of my favourites to share with you, dear readers. They are short and sweet, they let you know what is going on in my personal life, where my head is at, so to speak, and some of the challenges I am facing.

Because I never want you to think I am some self-proclaimed guru with no sense of reality, standing on a perch from on high, a false messiah if you will. I am a regular guy, with a day job, a girlfriend, and my own set of weird personal relationships. Art is one my first true loves, but as I age and live my life, I struggle with my own motivational challenges sometimes, and my personal health doesn’t seem to go my way very often, despite efforts I make regularly to eat well and exercise.

No matter what the challenge, I remind myself constantly of this one fact.

I’m going to share a favourite quote of mine from Marcus Aurelius to give you some insight –

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.

This manifesto reminds me that life is difficult, but we all are mutually in it together, though we might each see through a lenses obscured. And now to explain why there are not going to be an timotheories videos or post next week friends.

I am going on vacation for a week, starting this Saturday and carrying through to next Saturday I’m going to check out all of Penticton, British Columbia with my lovely girlfriend Mysticque. I’m taking this time to bond with her alone, something we have not done yet together, because she has a son from a former relationship, and we only get to see each other every other week. Some people might not like or want to accommodate a situation like that, but she is so worth it.

But regardless of my awesome relationship, people have been frustrating me lately, and even though Marcus Aurelius reminds me constantly that I need to be vigilant and empathetic, I need a break. To a place that gives me peace and calms my mind down. We all have those places, the mountains have always been that for me though. Thus I’m off to see Penticton, drink some wine, enjoy fresh air, and relax for five days, without technology.

A retreat from modern distractions.

We all need these refreshers creative cuties, never apologize for taking time for yourself to practice self-care. Discipline and hustle are fundamental to your personal growth, but unfortunately no one can manage everything at once and grow simultaneously. This is one of those time where I will practice excellent self-care and come back renewed. And I’m ever so thankful for Mysticque for taking this time with me, and doing 85% of the planning. I love her, and you will too, because the rest of July will be awesome.

And so I’m out of theories for a few days. Enjoy your week folks, and I will see you on Sunday the 23rd with preview interview.

Tim!

Summer Lovin’ (timotheories July 2017)

As I sit here and write this post late at night, in what is one of the hottest days of summer I have been witness to so many years, I have to wonder. Is it worth it to share this schedule with you creative cuties?

I think the short answer is yes, because it keeps me honest AND provides you with context as to what is coming up each month. It is actually so hot right now though. And the heat is making me crazy. I thought that writing late at night would alleviate some of that heat. But I was wrong.

I feel weird saying this, but I think I hate summer more then I hate winter. And I need A/C in my new house. Speaking of new houses, I am moving at the end of the summer and I’m taking a vacation in two weeks with my lovely girlfriend Mysticque, so July is gonna be a whirlwind of summer lovin’. Because it’ll happen so fast.

*Disclaimer* As always, every week I purchase an album and movie one week ahead of the actual review release and while I have the best intentions, I don’t always get what I want… so if you follow me on instagram (@timotheories) you can actually see what’s coming.

timotheories summarized – July

Stimulating Sundays – (07/02) Cross Talk Ep. 27, (07/09) Sound Culture intro, (07/16) …, (07/23) Brendon Greene interview preview (07/31) Brendon Green interview
Melodic Mondays – (07/03) Vince Staples, (07/10) Calvin Harris, (07/17) …, (07/24) Jay-Z, (07/31) Broken Social Scene
Theatrical Tuesdays – (07/04) T2 Trainspotting, (07/11) Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, (07/18) … (07/25) Kong: Skull Island
Wisdom Wednesdays – (07/05) Nonverbal Communication, (07/12) Interpersonal Communication, (07/19) …, (07/26) Muscle Chow
Timely Thursday – (07/06) timotheories July, (07/13) Art Walk, (07/20) …, (07/27) Moving Your Art

I need to cut back on releasing Cross Talk episodes this month friends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy our latest episode which we released this past Sunday – movies you love to hate. Man was that a fun episode to record, and I think even more fun to watch!

Also, I’m going to let you in on the latest and greatest on timotheories dot com. Sound Culture, the show where I and sometimes guests, but very often featuring a co-host, talk about albums, and sonic things you should listen to. Brendon Greene is my navigator in this journey.

Speaking of Brendon Greene, that is also who I’ll be interviewing this month. Brendon is the founder of Conscious Collective, and a classical fingerist when it comes to guitar. He is a super interesting guy, so get excited for that!

On top of that, we have tons of albums and movies to review, and I’ll wrap the series on communication basics, but there’ll be some timely posts on the Whyte Ave Art Walk and how to transport your art. Because I’m moving in August… woo-hoo!

theories Summarized

What are you looking for? More content? How about some recommendations on taking care of your diet? I promise that it’ll be awesome though.

And as much as the heat is making me crazy, I have a few theories to share with you, so subscribe to the mailing list, and leave me some feedback! We want to know what you think of our choices for July posts.

Tim!

Like Waves Hitting The Sand (Non-verbal Communication)

People often use silence as a way to collect their thoughts, while exhibiting control over a situation. And for many generations past, the strong and silent type was a kind of man to be emulated. He was quiet because he didn’t want to dominate conversations with words, he did this with presence and quiet affirmations shown through physical expression. It made him appear aloof and powerful.

Which is probably why so many male characterizations in popular culture showcase exactly this kind of male figure. If I were to ask you what a strong and silent type looked like, I’m sure that you could list at least a half a dozen examples from movies, music, and films, and if I took a decent sample sized survey that number would expand indefinitely. For me, video games will always be a great source of fodder for this trope. I must’ve played more than my fair share of games until I finished university, and after that point, I kind of lost interest in the hobby.

Fortunately for this post, I happen to know just a little more than your average citizen when it comes to video games – through grace or burden I’ll never know, but I’ll take it as a positive. And with that knowledge comes pattern recognition.

I Like To Move It, Move It

While every video game needs a good and vocal bad guy, it also needs an even better good guy. One who is basically mute. Maybe this is to turn that hero into an every man, and help make his story into ours, because we feel his feelings and make up reactions for him as we play the game. Maybe it was simply a limit of technology. But either way… whenever I think of the strong silent type, my mind doesn’t run to James Bond or Johnny Cash. No, I think of heroes like Mario, Link, and even Samus (read: surprise twist, Samus is a woman).

These heroes are selfless, sure of themselves, and deemed credibile within their chosen field.

I should be careful though not to put on a display demonstrating silence being golden, because there are some downsides. Conversely, this type of approach also makes men (read: everyone) appear distant, evasive, and uncomfortable with their environment. This happens because deep voices and higher volumes generally indicate confidence. Even when we should know better; that not all loud and proud people are in the right automatically.

Some of it comes down to nonverbal communciation too. And so I’m just sitting here wondering, do you remember that first time when I talked about the importance of communication?

Let’s Get Physical

Today I want you to consider that the pitch, speed, tone and volume of your voice is just as important in communicating your position as is the word choices you make. And in case you didn’t already know, hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, stance and proximity all matter in communicating the idea(s) you have at hand.

On top of that… eye movement, physical contact, and your appearance factor into a conversation too.

You see dear readers, this is because nonverbal communication is a lot more than the meaning of language, it focuses on the behaviours associated with message delivery. Learning to read body language is huge in gaining additional information about the hidden meanings of verbal communication.

Which is why I think this short article on non-verbal confidence in the workplace might just get you started right.

I’m not expecting you to become an expert in the matter over night, but a short list never hurt either.

  1. Good eye contact.
  2. A confident handshake
  3. Effective gestures
  4. Dressing the part
  5. Authoritative posture and presence
  6. Appropriate facial expressions
  7. Initiating interactions
  8. Appropriate voice tone
  9. Giving your full attention
  10. Responding to others’ nonverbal cues

Again this is just a short list, so if you want more meat, continue through to the article I linked above, but really consider these things dear readers, you reveal much more of yourself through body language then you even know, so want not get a leg up on the competition?

theories Summarized

And now that we’ve essentially covered three of the basic types of communication, we only have one more to go. A personal favourite of mine – interpersonal communication. If you thought this last topic was interesting, just wait for the insights we have in store next week. And I’m out of theories for now.

Tim!

Movies You Love To Hate (Cross Talk Ep. 27)

We all struggle with things in life. Things that we hate and which everyone else seems to love. It can be summed up in word – inexplicable.

I don’t really know why this happens, but there are a few camps on the matter. The most common belief being that over-saturation of something can lead to hatred of that same thing. We see pictures, memes, and discussions of something that we don’t know much about, nor do we really care for it, and the repetition grows and grows over time. To the point where resentment begins to set in.

It is especially true of very popular characters like the Minions, Harry Potter or Batman. When this content shows up in your social media feed over and over again, but you have no love for it, you slowly grow to hate it because others glorify it and raise it on a pedestal which doesn’t agree with your sensibilities.

Now psychology might say something completely different about this matter, telling us that hatred is often tied with difference. Difference being things which are separate from our own identities, and that when we hate something because it is different it says a lot more about us then the thing.

But I’m going to urge you to ignore logic today and look at the facts; Chris, Mike, and I all have a huge hate-on for some select movies and we are going to make some excellent points to justify for ourselves we why love to hate popular movies. And of course, we each bring an example that burns close to the home fires.

Yes hating things is usually bad, but sometimes its fun to hate something too, and if you aren’t directly hurting anyone, then it might even be cathartic to let it all out, dear readers. So this one is for the haters, to all you haters reading this post, take a minute and watch this video. This one is for you. And me. And Mike. And Chris.

And it just might awaken something in Andre leading to a contribution or too! This is Cross Talk episode number 27.

That was probably one of my favourite episodes to record creative cuties. Andre implemented the sliding camera in the wideshot, AND we had a four person conversation going at a couple of different moments. But what did you think? Do you agree that Meet The Parents is the worst? Or Unbreakable? How about Pirates of the Caribbean? Maybe you hate all of them equally…

Please let us know what you think? And if you liked this video, please share, comment, and subscribe! I’m out of theories for the day, but this has been Cross Talk and timotheories has even more in store for July!

Tim!