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11 Evil Thoughts That Sabotage Your Best Intentions

11 Evil Thoughts That Sabotage Your Best Intentions

You know that little sensation that tugs you in a certain direction? You know you must take action, whether it’s tackling a new project, changing your situation or sharing your thoughts. You know you’ll be fulfilled once you realize it. But you’re paralyzed.

You hear that little voice telling you all the “good reasons” why you can’t, why you shouldn’t or why you don’t need to undertake that action. It dissuades you over and over. And you can’t stop it.

But if you learn how to recognize it as an illusion, you can dissociate yourself from it, and it slowly dissolves.

Let’s identify a few evil thoughts and find out how to fight those mental blocks that sabotage your best intentions.

1. “I’ll never be able to make it.”

You’re telling yourself it’s impossible to do anything. You feel overwhelmed. You feel defeated way before you even start. Yes, this might be a big task, but cut it into small pieces and you’ll see how much easier it will become. Acknowledge it for what it is, and make it seem less important than it really is.

Say instead: “I don’t like this, but I’ll try to make it happen,” “This is bothering me, but I’ll do my best,” “I’d rather have an easier task, but I’ll try anyway,” or, “I can always ask for help.”

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2. “It’s too late; there’s no use.”

By saying this, you don’t think of confronting your problem and solving it in a concrete way. So you’d rather forget. You’d rather erase all the negative emotions and uncomfortable sensations. You’d rather not act. Is it really too late? Is it really no use? Isn’t there still a window of opportunity? Can you still take some actions on a smaller scale?

Say instead: “It’s not over yet. I can start by doing the easy little things first.”

3. “I can’t do what they expect.”

What exactly is expected of you? Do you actually know what it is? Has anyone voiced it clearly? Do you actually think you’ve been handed over something that others don’t believe you can do? If they handed it to you, it’s because they believe in you and trust you.

Say instead: “I can respond appropriately,” or, “I can do what’s needed and it’ll work.”

4. “I can’t show this. I have to get it right. It needs to be perfect.”

You believe that anything short of perfection is horrible and that even minor imperfections will lead to catastrophe. Why subject yourself to such tyranny? Doing so will only lead you to frustration, depression, anxiety, or anger. Although it’s good to aspire to perfection and push to reach your peak level of performance, perfection doesn’t have to be the only requirement. Besides, do you have a precise idea of what “perfect” looks like? Stop hurting yourself. Stop setting standards that are so high that they can’t be met or are only met with great difficulty.

Say instead: “I’d like this to be of superior quality, but I can only do my best. A few mistakes won’t kill me.”

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5. “I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know what to say.”

Here you feel helpless. You think nothing is possible when, in fact, everything is possible. There’s not one good way, but many ways to start doing something. So the real problem just lies in choosing where to begin.

Say instead: “Starting somewhere is better than starting nowhere.”

6. “I’ll do it when I find the perfect situation/person.”

When will that be? In a month, in a year or never? The perfect thing/situation might never come if you don’t take action. And it might not be as perfect as you envision it. But you can move toward it. That’s what makes life adventurous.

Say instead: “I’m willing to take risks.”

7. “Even if I try, I’ll make a mistake. I’m not good/smart enough.”

Why set yourself up to fail right away? You see it in your future as if it were already decided. Your future is not a fixed destination; it’s a place you can create out of the choices you make right now. Sure, you might make mistakes, but look forward to them, expect them, and learn from them.

Say instead: “I can adapt to any situation. I’ll do what’s necessary to make it work,” or, “I’ll get better at this.”

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8. “Whatever I do, it’ll always be the same. It doesn’t make a difference.”

You have feelings of despair, discouragement, and numbness. You’ve tried a few times and failed, and you’re afraid of being hurt again. So you prefer to stay still, to be passive, to be unresponsive because you’d rather feel safe and secure.

Say instead: “Let’s try this one more time.”

9. “I’ll take care of it tomorrow/later.”

Will you really? Or would you rather ignore that little voice, that little uncomfortable physical sensation, or that unpleasant feeling? Sure, there are times when you can postpone an activity. But if you do it more than once, when you know it would be in your best interest to take care of it now, you are procrastinating big time. Ask yourself what the benefit will be if you do it now. What will it cost if you don’t?

Say instead: “I’ll do five minutes of this to start,” or, “Let’s cut it up and do one thing at a time.”

10. “This is just too hard.”

You feel you have to put too much effort into your task. But at the same time you’re still making an effort to breathe, walk, and talk, right? So you can make an effort. Yeah, it may be harder, but so what? That shouldn’t discourage you at all. At first, you might have to work a little harder, but things will get easier over time.

Say instead: “This can be easy and effortless.” (Even if it might require you to spend some energy.)

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11. “That’s the way I am. I can’t change this.”

Think about this: what has remaining the same done for you lately? Has it helped you improve your situation in any way? It’s not that you can’t change, it’s that you don’t want to change. Big difference. But if you want to get ahead, you have to change.

Say instead: “I’m willing to make an effort,” or, “I’m willing to change.”

Vanquish Your Demons and Take Action

You view these recurring negative thoughts, these evil thoughts that have been holding you down in the dumps for a long time, as an excessive weight on your ankle that is stopping you from moving and realizing yourself.

But what you hear in your head is not really you. Your true self is in fact the person you could potentially become.

So change your script. Find the strength to be adventurous, dynamic, and solution-focused.

If you feel these evil thoughts paralyzing you, if you feel stuck, or if you feel dissociated, just do one thing. You must decide to let go; you must decide to move on. Allow yourself to make your situation joyful, and allow yourself to love and forgive yourself no matter what.

Because you know how you will feel about yourself once you do.

Featured photo credit: Worried Girl, Woman, Waiting/RyanMcGuire 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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