Commit To Silence

Here is a challenge for today: When you are having a conversation, discussion, or conflict, instead of trying to make a point, or win the argument, commit fully to listening. Commit to silence.

Be attentive and relaxed today when you are listening to others. Be present, give them your full attention and be ready to hear their message. Be receptive to the thoughts, concerns and feelings of others. Don’t try to solve their problems. Just try to empathize.

Don’t try to win, dominate, or prove that you are “right.” Don’t be distracted by your own thoughts, feelings, or biases. Commit to silence and to listening. And when you are listening, don’t spend time planning what to say next. You can’t rehearse and listen at the same time. Think only about what the other person is saying. Concentrate on what is being said, even if it bores you. If your thoughts start to wander, immediately force yourself to refocus.

Commit to being silent, to listening fully and to not interrupting or imposing your solutions. When you interrupt someone it sends a variety of messages, the strongest one being, “This isn’t a conversation, it’s a contest, and I’m going to win.” Or, “I’m more important than you are.”

When listening to someone talk about a problem, refrain from suggesting solutions. Most people don’t want advice anyway. Most people prefer to figure out their solutions or already have a “sense” as to what they should do in any given situation. Help others help themselves solve their own problems. If they ask for your advice, try responding with, “What do you think you should do?” Help by listening and encouraging them to find the answer within themselves.

Somewhere way down the line, if you are absolutely bursting with an idea or feedback, at least get the speaker’s permission. Ask, “I’ve been thinking about what you told me. Would you like to hear my ideas?” If they say, “Actually, I’m good at this point,” or, “No, thanks,” be okay with that and let it go.

If you must ask a question, ask questions only to ensure understanding. Don’t hijack the conversation or derail the speaker by asking questions that takes them away from their main topic of discussion.

Today, commit to being silent and to listening but also paying attention to what isn’t said—to nonverbal cues. Face to face with a person, you can detect enthusiasm, boredom, or irritation very quickly in facial expression. These are clues you can’t ignore. When listening, remember that words convey only a fraction of the message. By fully focusing on the speaker and their mannerisms will you get the full meaning of what is being communicated.

Being silent and listening intently is always a challenge. Just like most things in life, listening is a learned skill that is the product of a lot of practice. By committing to being silent, you are taking the first big step towards becoming a better listener.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado

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