Are You an Interrupting Cow? How to be a better listener, and more popular too

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting Cow.
Interrupting Cow wh– Moo!

Are you an interrupting cow? How often do you allow a pause after someone’s finished speaking? Be honest, how often do you let people finish speaking?

Interrupting is such a deeply ingrained habit for some that we don’t even notice when we do it. Kicking that habit is harder than quitting smoking, but the payoffs are just as rewarding. Listening well is a wonderful gift that costs you nothing. You’ll be more popular, and handsome too! Just kidding about the good looks, but, unsurprisingly, research shows that we like people who listen to us. These strategies will help you quit interrupting, improve your listening skills, and be as popular as you wished you were in high school:

  1. Listen Stop what you’re doing (put that phone down!) and be present when others speak. As you listen, remain open; not judging, just taking in what’s being said. You may not agree with what they’re saying, but give the courtesy of being heard. Good listening is relaxing: you don’t have to rebut, remember, or formulate while someone speaks.
  2. Pause After someone stops talking, allow a pause. Allow silence to crest and recede; conversation will pick up naturally.
  3. Reflect Respond by reflecting what you heard. Don’t offer answers or try to fix their problems. (Most of us speak to be heard, not to be told.) You can sympathize without taking on someone’s stress or troubles. We can solve our own problems when we hear our words reflected by a good listener.

Pauses in speech, like silence between musical notes, add richness and depth to a conversation. Although pauses may make you nervous at first—we’re a noisy and vocal society—you’ll quickly get used to them. As the need to speak becomes less urgent, you’ll find more space in your life. Those times of silence, when you’re aware of distant traffic, falling snowflakes or the ticking of a clock, are silent gifts. Just like being listened to.

Lucinda

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Lucinda Atwood is a coach, speaker and author who helps clients build expertise and confidence in their speaking and leadership skills.
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