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15 Signs You’re An Over-Thinker Even If You Don’t Feel You Are

15 Signs You’re An Over-Thinker Even If You Don’t Feel You Are

Infinite possibilities.

You’ve probably been told that the world is at your finger tips. You have more choices than ever before and that you should be so lucky that there are abundant opportunities out there.

This idea can be a blessing for some and a curse for others.

If you’re an over-thinker like me, it can be exhausting running through every possible scenario for every potential possibility.

The what if’s start to run your life and you can get so deep down the rabbit hole, that you can even forget what your original intention was.

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It’s even worse when you’re unaware you are doing it!

Here are 15 signs that you are an over-thinker, even if you don’t feel you are.

1. You find meaning in everything

Someone you like twirls their hair twice, instead of three times. You walk past someone and they don’t make eye contact with you, but you walk past them again and this time they make eye contact, but for only a couple of seconds. They looked away a little too fast. What does it all mean!? When you’re an over-thinker, you tend to want to find meaning in the world around you. Sometimes, it can consume you and you over-analyze everything. It’s helpful to remind yourself that nothing has inherent meaning, other than the meaning you give it.

2. You think more than you do

Ever heard the term analysis paralysis? You think so much that you don’t end up doing anything. You weigh your options. You decide that the best outcome might be, but then you compare the best outcome with a new possible best outcome. The cycle continues until you end up doing nothing. Instead of thinking about every possibility, I find it helpful to actually start testing out some to see if they are actually true. While it’s important to think, it’s equally important to act.

3. You get excited when you’ve finally figured something out

Maybe you’ve been mulling something over for weeks. A complex problem that you haven’t figured out yet, but have kept at it. Or, a complex love interest that you’ve obsessed about, until they do something that proves your entire theory about them. Either way, you jump for joy exclaiming, “Eureka!” when you’ve finally figured out the answer. Then of course, you move onto your next problem and even begin to question whether or not you actually figured out the original problem.

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4. You find it difficult to let things go

Because you’ve put in a lot of effort to figure something out, you find it challenging to let go of it. You easily attach to things you find important. You don’t want to fail. When you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into something, it can be hard to let it go when it isn’t working. You may continue thinking about it even after you believe you already did let it go. The more you think about something, the more it can eat away at you.

5. You are patient

You highly value the time it takes to “dot all of your i’s and cross all of your t’s.” Even if it takes you longer than most, you are delighted when you come out ahead because you’ve put in the time to figure it out. You are willing to wait it out until you feel comfortable with the knowledge you’ve acquired, which allows you to be patient whilst others want quick solutions.

6. You want to get all of your ducks in a row

Be careful with this one. This can often be an excuse to not taking any action. While you find it comforting to wait until you feel ready, you may never feel ready and might only be delaying the inevitable. I know this because I used to say this. Sometimes there will never be a best time and you will never have as much time as you do now. Might as well jump in the water and then get your duckies in a row.

7. You are always seeking new information

A friend forwards you an article about a topic you are interested in. You get a notification from Facebook that you were tagged in a photo at the same time you get a text from someone asking you a question. Then, you’re cubicle mate stands up and wants to try this new restaurant for lunch. With so many distractions, there is a tendency to want to know more information about all of it. So many possibilities and so much to learn about them.

8. You want to know the “why”

Kids love to ask why. It’s hot out today. Why? Don’t talk to strangers. Why? Walk don’t run. Why? Over-thinkers tend to keep this inner child with them throughout their life. They aren’t interested so much in surface level meaning, but the why behind it. This can be extremely beneficial in solving complex problems, having deep conversations, and pondering the meaning of life. Sometimes it can be detrimental, because some things DO have surface level meaning. We want simplicity, yet make things complex.

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9. You want to get everything right

You might be a perfectionist. On the one hand, you pride yourself on being great at what you do and strive to do your best. But when you don’t get everything right and come up short, you can become your harshest critic. By recognizing that this can be a strength as well as a weakness, you can let up a little knowing that you simply can’t get everything right, despite your best efforts. Cut yourself some slack.

10. You dread a one word reply

When you ask someone “How they are doing?” and all you get is “Good”, you cringe a little bit. There is much more to that question than “good.” Wanting to know more, you might pry a little more and ask more questions because you want to figure out how they are actually are. How good? Really good or just a little good? Good today? Good right now? While you may be able to go on and on about how you are feeling, you might also expect everyone else to want to do the same.

11. You assume others know what you’re thinking

Those voices in your head are loud to you, but you may forget that they are yours and yours alone. You might get quiet and assume someone else will know exactly what is going on in that head of yours. But if you don’t communicate it, other people won’t know. While you may prefer quiet environments, you start to realize that your over-thinking gets louder when there aren’t as many distractions. You may find that inner child coming out again when you don’t get your way.

12. You are a lover of lists

The joy of making a large list and crossing out those items as you complete them is highly motivating. When you try and share your love of lists with others, they many not revel in that same joy. But you continue to make them! The satisfaction of planning out something and visually seeing all that planning getting crossed off is pleasurable.

13. You look forward to doing things to calm the mind

Long walks. Meditation. Writing. Exercise. A conversation. You enjoy doing things that take your mind out of over-thinking mode. While your mind is active, you find it difficult to sometimes just be and can have the urge to be doing more. It’s helpful to remind yourself that you are in fact a human being and not a human doing. This will allow your mind to take a much deserved break.

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14. You analyze people

This includes yourself! You may wonder why people do the things they do. You enjoy people watching because you want to try and figure them out. Public places can be both fascinating and overwhelming to you. To you, someone just doesn’t walk by you. You may have noticed the way they walk or thought about what song they are listening to. If someone is talking to themselves, you might have to remind yourself that they are talking to themselves and not you. Then you wonder why they are talking to themselves in first place.

15. You think critically

Sometimes you see alternative solutions to complex problems. Maybe you have some ideas that nobody has ever thought of before. Sometimes you can sit and stare off in awe at the complexity of life. Easy answers aren’t good enough to you. You want to go deeper. You weigh all of your options, carefully investigating deeper and deeper. Your ability to think critically is a strength you are deeply proud of.

Some of our greatest inventors, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders were all over-thinkers. It can can also be very limiting and even lonely at times.

When you can see both the strengths and limitations of your over-thinking, you can balance your level of over-thinking with more doing. You can even teach someone else who under-thinks!

Take comfort knowing you aren’t the only one who over-thinks and remember these 15 signs you are probably an over-thinker, even if you don’t feel like you are.

But don’t think about it too much.

Featured photo credit: The Thinker/Johnnie Shannon via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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