Shutting Your Mouth and Opening Your Ears

Sounds easy, right? Just stop talking and start listening.

Well, for some of us, these habits are hard to break.

It’s nothing new that people want to be heard. We want to air our opinions on issues, make suggestions in different situations, and sometimes, pour out our personal issues to a listening ear. The fact that people who are good listeners are often generally liked, reflects how much we want to be heard and listened to.

The need to be listened to and truly heard is in no way a bad thing. Communication and listening are what drives the world forward. Communication is a vital element in maintaining and fixing interpersonal relationships, helping us understand each other in the best possible way and solve problems when the need arises.

Interruptions

You might just know more. You may believe the person speaking is wrong, misinformed, or just plain unintelligent. You need to add in your two cents. You don’t want to forget your point.

All of these (and many more) may seem like perfectly normal excuses or rationalizations for interrupting the person who is talking to you. But guess what, those are not good excuses at all!

Logically, communication is only possible when we listen to one another properly. Listening leads to understanding, which is the first and most necessary step in solving issues.

For the above reasons, interrupting other people when they speak can be pretty negative, and it disturbs the flow of conversation. When you find yourself frequently interrupting others in a conversation, it is advisable to figure out why, before trying to consciously end the habit. One possible reason why you keep interrupting the person speaking is that you are not fully in the moment. It could also be that you are subconsciously waiting eagerly for your turn to speak. No matter the reason, however, it is always possible to be a better listener, as there is a clear difference between interrupting and having a conversation.

Let’s address a number of ways by which we can break the nasty habit.

Awareness

The first step to breaking the habit of interrupting others is being aware of your habit as harmful to your relationships. You should also be aware of the situations where you are most likely to interrupt others, based on your observation. Are you likely to interrupt a friend or family member when you are being told a personal story? Do you often interrupt co-workers while they make a point at the office?

Having proper awareness shows that you are mindful of your situation, and more importantly, that you are willing to change. Part of mindfulness can also include you saying “I’m sorry I interrupted you”. It signifies to the other person that you realize what has just occurred and that you intended to improve. Awareness is simply the first and most important step. Over time, you will realize that your mindfulness will make you more conscious of the situation, which builds your tolerance and helps you listen to others better.

Focus

Maintaining a level of focus on the conversation goes a long way in preventing you from interrupting your counterpart. One trick to maintaining your focus is trying not to do more than one thing at a time. When you are in a conversation with someone, try your best to focus on them and them alone.  While this may be difficult, you realize that focusing on them helps you absorb the information more, giving you less reason to interrupt.

Try your best to maintain eye contact with the person speaking to you. It helps you focus on them more and listen better. It is much harder to listen properly when your attention is all over the place. In this kind of situation, you may end up interrupting without even realizing it. Take a minute to listen properly to the person speaking to you and focus on other things after your conversation. Try to constantly remind yourself to focus, in order not to get carried away.

Patience

Hold your horses! It is possible that you have a better, more recent, or more refined idea to share with a person. It is also possible that there is a notion or an idea that they have, which seems to be wrong and needs correction. Regardless of how wrong, outdated, or misled their ideas may be, do them the courtesy of listening to them before airing your opinion or providing your correction. Fight the urge to interrupt them mid-sentence and be patient till they are done talking.

Also, do not be in haste to formulate what you are about to say. Interruption often happens when you are busy formulating your own sentences while the person is still speaking. It is better to fully tune in and grasp what the person is trying to say, rather than waiting for your turn to speak. The proper sequence of action is to listen, take a moment, and then respond.

Why You Need to Break The Habit

We have addressed a few useful ways of breaking the habit of interrupting others. But how important is it to successfully break this habit and become a better listener?

  • Listening properly without interrupting actually makes you a better speaker. When you listen properly before speaking, your speech is a combination of what you have listened to, as well as your own personal take on the issue. It creates a more rounded conversation between you and your counterpart, making them feel truly involved in the conversation.
  • Listening is also a vital tool in driving any organization forward. It helps the organization function properly in its internal operations. When communication between members is often seamless and free-flowing, such an organisation is more likely to thrive in its external objectives as well.
  • The person who masters the art of listening without interrupting others is more likely to increase their capacity to motivate and influence others. People just like you more. When you listen to the ideas, opinions, and needs of other people, they appreciate it and respect you more. You will also the capacity to develop and serve others effectively.

Last Words

Interrupting others while speaking stifles communication between both parties. You don’t like it when it happens to you and people don’t like it when it happens to them.  It signifies a lack of respect for the person being interrupted and practically labels the person interrupting as a bad listener. The importance of good listening in all areas of life cannot be overstated. It is just as important in our daily domestic lives as it is to our business and professional lives. Pay more attention to your general level of listening and witness the immediate changes it brings to the quality of your relationship with everyone around you!

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