The way we communicate and the way we learn are both inextricably linked to our brain and psychology. Our identity, beliefs, assumptions, emotional addictions, thinking patterns, etc. all contribute to our learning success.
One example – over your life you have become accustomed to the musical aspects of your voice and the way you move your face. These behaviours constitute part of your identity and changing them feels odd and may feel fake.
Another example – when people ask you where you come from, you may think they are focusing on the fact that you aren’t from here, or even that you don’t belong, and consequently you feel angry, upset or judged. Alternatively, you may think the speaker is looking for something to talk about and you feel happy that they want to talk with you.
Becoming aware of which psychological processes help us learn and which may be holding us back is the first step. But what can we do to move forward?
Calming the brain allows the frontal lobe to do its job.
While brain research is in constant flux, we know that the frontal cortex deals with many aspects involved in refining communication skills. It is responsible for intent, commitment, focus, concentration, discipline, memory, planning, problem solving and emotional expression. When we make decisions that are “outside the box,” we are using the frontal lobe.
There are many ways to calm the brain and increase our focus. Doing breathing exercises and listening to certain types of music can both help. An exercise called Learning State involves looking upwards without tilting the head, focusing on a spot on the ceiling or high up on the wall and gradually broadening our focus to the sides. This activates our peripheral vision and allows us to be totally present.
Such techniques help to calm other brain functions so that the frontal lobe can take over and create a more effective internal learning environment.
Emotional addiction can block productive habits.
When we change our usual behaviour, the brain enters a moderate to severe fight-or-flight mode. Our bodies get used to the production of chemicals stimulated by our brain when we participate in our usual behavioural patterns and consequently any change can be uncomfortable, at least at the beginning. The degree to which the new behaviour produces discomfort depends on how deeply the old behavioural pattern is installed.
Being aware that we will feel uncomfortable is the first step. There are various ways to adjust our mental programming, ranging from developing effective strategies to reframing the way we look at things. Additionally, it is useful to understand habit development and take the necessary time to install any new habit. (Please read our blog post on how to successfully develop habits .)
Tapping into the unconscious mind helps to strengthen our learning processes.
Between 80% and 95% of what is happening in the brain is out of our awareness. The brain does the huge job or running the body completely unconsciously. It also stores our old memories, many of which influence the conscious and unconscious choices we make moment to moment. Whether we call it the unconscious or subconscious mind is not important here. What is important is that the mind filters our perceptions and creates internal representations which influence our emotional states and behaviours.
These internal representations can be changed. The unconscious mind believes what it is told. The more we say something to ourselves, the more it gets installed. But creating an alternative vision is like building a new path through the forest – as we continue to walk on the new path we envision, it becomes worn and easier to walk on. We can use the power of the unconscious to adjust thoughts and behaviours so that they support us in achieving our desired outcomes.
Paying attention to our mental processes, understanding more about how we learn and preparing ourselves by using simple yet effective techniques – these actions can create the mental and psychological support which allows us to successfully refine our communication skills… and much more.