Stop Interrupting Me! (Or The Delusion That You’re a Good Listener.)

Do you ever run into that person who thinks she’s the world’s best listener? Everyone tells her their problems, she says. She patiently listens, then offers sound advice, real perspective.

But secretly, you wonder if she’s deluding herself. Because as far as you know, she barely listens to what you or others say.

We tend to pick our most positive moments and use them to paint our entire personality.

I have had my moments as a good listener, but I also had to come to a point where I realized I interrupted too much. For example, if I had a thought that was too good to keep inside, I would jump in without letting the other person finish. Sometimes I was afraid the person would move on to the next topic before I got a chance to get my two cents in. And I assumed the conversation was very fluid, where I could hear what the person was saying even if I talked at the same time, and vice versa. No need to wait until one person was done before I spoke.

I was making up my own rules of conversation, without realizing how it would affect the other person. My lovely husband Sajan helped me face this fact and stop making excuses.

Take a look at the “Are You a Good Listener?” checklist below from Toastmasters. Where do you fall?

Do you think the results would vary if you rated yourself versus if someone else rated you?

For each question, give three points if your answer is “Always,” two points for “Sometimes,” and one point for “Never.”

The Good Listener Checklist

  1. I focus my attention on the speaker and don’t think about anything else.

  2. I do not anticipate what the speaker is going to say before he/she actually says it. 

  3. I wait until the speaker has finished to formulate my response. 

  4. I look the speaker in the eye, nod my head and smile, while listening, to show the speaker I’m  interested. 

  5. I do not do other tasks while someone is talking to me. 

  6. I listen carefully to the speaker even when I disagree with what is being said. 

  7. When the speaker has finished, I summarize what he/she has said to ensure I understood correctly. 

  8. I ask questions when I am not sure about something the speaker said. 

22 to 24 points: Congratulations! You’re an excellent listener.
17 to 21 points: Your skills need some attention.
16 points or less: It’s time to make some improvements.

(From the Toastmasters manual A Practical Guide to Becoming A Better Leader.)

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