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Why Speaking Your Mind Should Not Be Encouraged

Why Speaking Your Mind Should Not Be Encouraged

Ask any parent what their #1 pet peeve is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s their children whining. From a young age, we are taught not to complain and that whining is bad. However, we are also taught that it is important to “speak your mind,” and not let others quiet your opinion. So where do we define the difference? While we can all likely agree that people who complain are not people we would prefer to spend time with, the average person has been found to complain anywhere from 15-30 times per day.[1]

While at first that number may seem unimaginable, think about how simple it is to complain about something. “I’m hot,” “I’m bored,” “These shoes are so uncomfortable,” are all thoughts we may voice throughout the day simply out of the habit of speaking our minds. While we may not think of it as complaining per se, the aforementioned “thoughts” and things as simple as talking about dislikes regarding a person, place, or thing are all complaints.

We speak our mind to seek validation

For the most part, we whine about something because we are facing a challenge. Maybe your co-worker isn’t pulling his weight on a project, or perhaps a waiter was rude and didn’t provide very good service.

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    When we face a problem or situation in which we are unsatisfied, we want to vent in order to find some kind of solution. By vocally addressing the problem, we think we are on the fast track to remedying the situation.

    Humans are wired to want validation, complaining can do that. As social animals, we as humans need to be accepted and validated in order to live in a group and survive.[2] Sometimes we complain, not to irritate the listener, but rather in an attempt to find validation and have that person agree with us. When you complain about something and find that others share your opinion, you have a sense of relief in knowing others are suffering in the same way, and you all feel the same way about it. It’s the same reason we will often voice the same concern to each friend until we find the person who agrees with us; when we aren’t being validated, we instead feel we are being judged for having the opinion in the first place.

    But no one likes a whiner

    While it may feel good to you to vent about things you dislike or ramble on about a concern that only pertains to you, the people around you aren’t sharing that feeling.

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      Think about your social media timeline, we all have that one friend who uses their status to complain about something. It’s usually personal, familial or subtext-related and has no business on social media. However, if you click on the comments, you’ll find plenty of people saying things like, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this! Let me know how I can help,” and “I know how you feel. I’m here if you need to talk.” Because of the few supporters, that person won’t stop, but you and other like-minded people are likely to hide his or her updates from your feed.

      See, if you insist on “speaking your mind” all the time, you will find yourself in a situation where almost everyone hates you, or at least what you have to say.

      And it has nothing to do with validity. Your complaint could be true and well-worded, but truth isn’t always something people like to be faced with. So the more you shove it in their faces, the more likely they are to reject it and ultimately reject you. Not surprisingly, this is a snowball effect in which your reputation ultimately gets affected because people see you as a complainer, and not a contributor to change.

      Speak your mind only when you plan to contribute

      Whatever you aren’t satisfied with, it could be a problem. Any problem is the source of an idea, and an idea needs execution.

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        While you could whine about a very real issue all day long, simply talking about it isn’t going to fix it, nor will it inspire others to do anything about it. While your complaint undoubtedly started from recognizing a problem and wanting to improve it, simply thinking of or talking about improving something doesn’t change anything. No matter how loud you yell, talking and doing are different things.

        Here at Lifehack, we want you to be opinionated. We want you to change the world! And yes, we want you to speak your mind. However, you should only talk if you’ve already processed the situation and thought about the actions you want to take. Bite your tongue if you have no idea how to make things better.

        Here’s a cheat sheet:

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        • Do bring up the issue if it’s something you have the ability to improve or even fix. And if you can’t do it on your own, propose solutions or ways to handle it to those who would be willing.
        • Do bring up the issue if you’ve thought about it first.
        • Don’t bring up the issue if it’s something out of your ability to fix – this would be the equivalent of complaining about it. Instead think about who to tell and tell them the ideal results you want to see.
        • Don’t just speak out and complain right away after you spot a problem, because remember, truths are hard to accept (especially the harsh truths).

        At the end of the day, there’s a big difference in recognizing a problem and striving to resolve it, and seeing an issue and complaining about it. Think things through and don’t speak without thinking. Let us know how you plan to start!

        Featured photo credit: Colorbox via colourbox.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

        10 Essential Books on Relationships To Help You Understand Love Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering 20 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life How Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) 23 Books About Racism to Inspire You to Embrace Race and Do Good

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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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