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being a better listener

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Do you consider yourself a good listener? The odds are that you do. Most people do. You might do a little eye roll when you hear that because you know so many people who are * not * good listeners. Here’s an alarming idea: you might be one of them. A survey conducted by Accenture and posted to Fast Company shows that nearly all respondents believe they’re good listeners. However, 66 percent admit to being on their email while on conference calls and 35% admit to instant messaging while on conference calls.


It’s true that the digital age makes it difficult to listen, because there’s always a distraction if we want one. We’ve even normalized texting or scrolling through Instagram while having an IRL conversation with someone! But our relationships — both personal and professional — take a hit when we fail to listen. And there’s another reason we don’t listen that has nothing to do with our phones: we interrupt. You’re anxious to say what you want to say, or you don’t want to allow someone to finish when you believe they’re being redundant/rude/confusing etc. But interrupting someone is a sure fire way to get them to stop communicating entirely. So, here’s what happens when we interrupt people less.


They’re more likely to hear you out

If you’re ever having a conflict with someone or are simply not seeing eye to eye, you might have the urge to shout them down. You just think that the one who gets the most words in, wins. But a real win would involve actually changing the perspective of the other person, and that won’t happen if they don’t feel you took the time to understand theirs. An article from the International Journal or Listening shows people feel most understood when someone displays signs of active listening. This involves repeating phrases back to someone they’ve just said. It doesn’t involve interrupting. If someone feels understood, they are more inclined to hear you out.

You might hear new information

Listening is power because information is power. Any time you are speaking, you are not consuming new information. How could you be? You already know what’s in your head and now you’re just spreading it. When we interrupt people, sometimes it’s because we assume we already know what they’re going to say. But we could be cutting them off before they share data that is completely new to us. Once you interrupt someone, it can be hard to get back on track. They forget what they were going to say. You might have missed your chance at gaining valuable information.

You will be interrupted less

If you establish yourself as someone who interrupts others often in conversation, then people begin to mimic your behaviors. They feel that the only way they can get a word in with you is through interrupting. We get the respect that we give, and if you show that you’re totally cool with cutting people off, they’ll give it right back to you. If you feel people interrupt you often, ask yourself: did you start this? If you hate being interrupted then at the very least, don’t interrupt others.

People will confide in you more

If you want loved ones to feel that they can open up to you about personal matters or if you want colleagues to feel they can confide in you about inside information, you can’t interrupt people. You can’t make the conversation about you. Research out of Wright University finds that, when you interrupt someone and change the topic to make it about you, the other person feels you don’t care about them. Even if you interrupt to share a similar experience, they still feel that way. And when you make the conversation about you, people stop confiding in you.

You’ll get to know people better

If you feel like you have plenty of acquaintances and surface relationships but few deep and meaningful ones, it could be because you interrupt too much. One way to feel close to others is to know them and to know them is to listen. While being close also involves sharing your own stories, that’s only half of it. The other half (listening) is just as important. When you let people tell their full stories, you get to know them and then you can feel closer.

You’ll put your foot in your mouth less

Sometimes you say something you regret when you interrupt. You hear just the first part of what someone has to say, you feel insulted, cut them off, and say something insulting back. Only then do they say “Had you let me finish, I was going to say—-“ and it turns out, they weren’t trying to insult you. But now you’ve said what you said and there’s no taking that back. Or sometimes you share a secret you weren’t supposed to, feeling that you have to, because you haven’t let the person finish. Listening can reveal you didn’t have to say as much.

You’ll appear smarter

A study conducted at the psychology department of Loyola Marymount University and discussed in The Wall Street Journal shows that, in conversation, people perceive another as more intelligent if they do some of the active listening techniques previously mentioned such as quiet signs of acknowledgement like nodding and gesturing. *Quiet* signs. If you stop to reflect, you may realize some of the people in your life who you perceive to be smart don’t talk very much. And the ones you think are, well, not as smart are…always yapping. Over-talking can be a form of overcompensating for a lack of intelligence.

You may learn they know more than you

When having a conversation with someone in which you’ll be exchanging information about the same topic that you’ve both been researching or asking around about, there can be this race to show what you’ve learned. But sometimes, if you interrupt, you can later learn that you had outdated information. It’s old news. It’s no longer relevant. And then you can feel a bit silly. Sometimes you’re the last to know the newest data and can look foolish for eagerly sharing what everyone already knew.

You can identify good conversationalists

Here’s another interesting outcome of interrupting less: you identify good (and bad) listeners. You see what happens if you allow someone to just speak, as long as they want, without interruption. You might find that some people never give you the chance to talk. They just monologue at you. If you’ve always interrupted them, you might not have realized how self-involved they were. When we aren’t good listeners ourselves we don’t realize when we’re dealing with other bad listeners.

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