Flat-Brain Theory Works

“To every one of you who wants deeper connections with people, to get along better with them, and to do what you can to enrich their lives. To those of you who listened to me with a challenging acceptance. It touched me, grew me, and held me together. To all of you who let me in on your lives – your struggles, your failures, and your successes... And for all of you: May you not only listen to those around you, but hear them in a way that encourages creativity, collaboration, and growth. May your footprints always lead others on paths of love and justice” (Petersen, 2007, p. v). In the above author’s dedication, the writer says about his desired result for all the readers of his book, “Why don’t we listen better? Communicating and connecting in relationships”. Good communication skills are the key to successful connection and relationships with people. Petersen’s book is more of a manual than a book; “it is designed to be read in short sections . . . you can revisit pieces you want to focus on” (Petersen, 2007, p. 8). It is also an expedition of self-discovery. For instance, after several years of utilizing communication techniques, the author still refers to the piece as a guideline in his relationship with others.

Petersen has divided his book into five parts, which he has used to illustrate the process of talking and listening, to enable the readers comprehend how to communicate with one another in a better way. In the first part, the author creates Flat-Brain Theory of Emotion, in which he explains how the human mind works, as well as what happens within the human body when they act the way they do, and talk in the way they act. He combines emotions, feelings, communications and action in the Flat-Brain Theory. His creativity is evident in the way he uses illustrations to show how the Flat-Brain Theory works. In Part Two, the author uses the Talker Listener Card (TLC), to illustrate a way in which people can communicate better, especially the listening aspect. The card is designed to remind the Talker and the Listener of their roles in the communication process (Petersen, 2007).

In Part Three Petersen provides the various basic listening techniques that we can use, so that we choose the one that works best for us. In addition, this part also provides a variety of examples of how we can use the techniques in our conversation and listening experiences. According to the author, there are two levels of communication: the first level involves the exchange of information, while level two is the level of trust and expression of one’s true feelings. In Part Four and Five the author summarizes the process of effective talking and listening. He provides examples of how his theory of “Flat Brained Syndrome” is used in overcoming various issues, as well as people having the syndrome. At the ends of the book Petersen demonstrates how great communication skills can help a person to become better (Petersen, 2007).

I am naturally a good talker. Whenever I communicate with somebody, I find myself talking so much that within the first few minutes of our encounter they will know almost everything about me. At any given moment I feel like I know nearly nothing and everything. However, I am a poor listener. Reading the Petersen’s book reminds me of the need to continue learning to listen in order to improve the way I communicate and relate with others. I have a great capacity for compassion and I would like to become a good counselor or pastor some day. However, my inability to shut up and listen to other people may keep me from achieving my dream. I remember a friend of mine reminding me of the first time we met. After the introductions I started talking; I am not sure for how long, but when I paused, he told me that within those few minutes I was talking, he felt that he knew me more than his wife whom he had been married for ten years. That just shows how talkative I am, and if I do not do anything to improve my listening skills, my chances of having good communications and relationships in the future are slim. Thanks to Petersen for writing the wonderful book, “Why don’t we listen better? Communicating and connecting in relationships”! After reading it, I am trying now to perfect my listening skills. I am very determined to become a good listener and I am certain that the listening techniques discussed in this book will help me to achieve my dream.

The reading of Petersen’s book reminded me of the probable consequences of failing to listen well. It also enlightened me on some of the tango moments and the flat-brained syndrome in my personal life. The most interesting part is its interaction with the Hawkins’ counseling model which is the most significant part the counseling situation, the preparation, practice, as well as the counselor’s education. How can a counselor successfully offer help to people in need without the most important skills in counseling - listening? I found out that struggling the entire life with a listening problem, Petersen’s listening techniques have been very instrumental in helping me to comprehend some of the challenges associated with poor listening as well as how I can listen better. The author’s dedication to help people be better listeners gives hope to people with listening problems like me to continue learning to improve not only our listening skills, but our overall communication skills as well.

My action after reading Petersen’s book is to write a novel titled “Now I Know More About Why I Do Not Listen Better”, to show the experiences I gained from reading the book. There are various things I learnt in the book that will help to improve my listening and communication skills as well as to become a better counselor. For instance, the TLC which I have already put into use. When I fold it in my hand with the part of the listeners facing me, it reminds me of my role in a conversation. The TLC brought back to my memory a conference I attended, where a talking stick was employed. Whoever held the stick would talk uninterrupted. That is the same way the TLC works; as long as the listener portion of the TLC is facing me, it helps me to focus on listening.

Petersen stated, “Listen awhile, talk until the other person stops hearing and listen until the person calms enough to hear again” (5). Here the conversation is likened to a dance, where the focus is on a single dancer at any one time. It gives time to analyze the dancing style of every person. The last portion, Beyond Skill (2009), says to all readers to learn to communicate effectively. This chapter has aroused a desire in me to develop a lifelong habit of learning how to listen well and communicate better. However, I am aware that it will take more than just the desire to achieve my goal; I will have to be determined, disciplined and focused. I hope that one day I will be able to implement Petersen’s advice to people which says that “When you find yourself around people of influence, experience and knowledge, ask two to three questions then shut up and listen to what they have to say... Interrupt only to clarify what is being said or to go to the bathroom” (Petersen, 2007, p. 115).

Edwidge Danticat
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