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15 Signs You’re Born to Be A Free-Thinker

15 Signs You’re Born to Be A Free-Thinker

Free-thinkers are confident, logical and intelligent. They give birth to their own ideas and resist the dominating mantras of the simple-minded. Having a mind that is free and the courage to express it will often mean free-thinkers have only a few close friends (who are equally interesting and intelligent). Though they are proud of their brilliant minds they are also sensitive and seek harmonious relationships with accepting partners. It can be exhausting to resist the overwhelming myths of popular thought on a regular basis. Free-thinkers are intellectual heavy lifters in our world and their non-conformist, irreverent wit and insight shines a light on the fallacy of often illogical beliefs in many areas.

1. You Are The Pope Of Your Own Life

Speaking of dogma… as a free-thinker you live by your own set of rules and no one,  not even your beloved mother, can tell you to live otherwise. You came by your beliefs through your own experience and curiosity. You tested them and they stood up to your tests. It’s impossible for you to kowtow to religious or secular bylaws that were created to control people.

2. You Are Outstanding In Your Work And Play

A free-thinker does not understand mediocrity! You give everything your all. You don’t need to do a non-traditional job to be a free thinker. Because of your insight and imagination you may be the best legal secretary in the land but no-one knows that every weekend you jump into a uniform that looks like a space suit and go longboarding down mountain highways. Most people are happy to spell-check their way through their days, but you write life at a higher level.

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3.You Have Unique Style

Who wants to fit in? Free-thinkers stand out and you don’t need tattoos to do it. You may have them but you’re not following a trend; you’re expressing your life. Most people you know let their jobs dictate their style of thought and dress. Not you. You’re dapper, edgy or classic. You wear what you want and you wear it well.You’re Oscar Wilde or Baudelaire.

4. You Are Creative

Free-thinkers engage in creative thinking on many levels. Socially, emotionally, logically and spiritually. You may make movies that question deeply held beliefs, paint pictures that challenge conventional thinking about love, write stories that provoke people to question their place in the world or sing songs that dispel myths about sexual orientation. You think creatively because you think freely.

5. You Have Been Called Weird

Normies don’t get you. Nine to fivers think you’re wasting your life. Buttoned down bankers who profit from the funds of dictators and other (more local) criminals think you’re morally bankrupt because you don’t buy into the American dream. Free-thinkers see that the dream is crushing the reality. You go off to live in the woods off the grid and raise a bunch of hippie kids. You spend a year traveling to see every work of art you’ve ever wanted to see. You start a publishing company focusing on books for old people. You do what your heart calls you to do and that’s pretty weird.

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6. You Think For Yourself

As a free-thinker it goes without saying that you think for yourself. Ever since you heard your friends who are outside your faith are going to hell you’ve thought for yourself. There has been some seminal moment where you rejected the authority over you and started to think secret not-so-secret radical thoughts. You are so determined to think without constraints that you question your own thoughts and beliefs on a regular basis.

7. You Question Authority

A free-thinker knows that more knowledge or power does not mean you have a superior belief system. Historically, people with vast intelligence and power have been a destructive force in the world. The atom bomb was devised by some fairly smart dudes but they did some serious damage in the world. Even the most learned can be wrong. You know you don’t have to believe them but you also know you can if their ideas pass your qualifying tests.

8. You Have Friends With Whom You Disagree

Free-thinkers agree to disagree. Your book clubs are pretty raucous events. Eight people read the same book and have eight different takes on it. All of them make you think. It’s a pleasure to be in the company of people who spark your imagination. You think dinner parties are better when they sound like an old joke: “So, a Jew, a Catholic and an atheist come to dinner.” A closed community is a boring community. You’re not much for boring.

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9. You Have Heard Of The Kardashians (but know nothing about them)

Free-thinkers know what is going on in modern culture but they feel no need to buy in. You’re definitely not dead to modern culture. You think freely enough to have friends who watch this stuff but you don’t have time for it. The real estate in your brain comes at a higher cost than the price of admission charged by so called reality TV. You’d rather eat rusty nails.

10. You Don’t Watch Television

A free-thinker won’t find entertainment in a mind control box. There is nothing on TV that appeals to you and you don’t want your mind numbed and your money stolen by the marketing messiahs who promise a better life (if you only eat their brand of yogurt). TV is dead anyway. You can find your entertainment climbing mountains, dining with friends or selecting movies you want to watch when you want to watch them. Your mind will not be tamed.

11. You Read

A free-thinker likes to read. Yes, you read books. Whole books. With big words in them. You read more than headlines. You read more than articles. You like to fill your mind with well thought out, complex ideas – not sound bites. E-readers or actual books are equally of value to you.

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12. You Don’t Pay Attention To Labels (Except Food)

A free-thinker is label-free. Gay, straight and everything in between – you could care less and it’s likely you’ve tasted from the smorgasbord of Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian – you listen to all and come up with your own ideas. Feminist, Humanist, Pacifist, Realist – if there is any thing in any ist you like you adopt it but you don’t go wholesale to the point of exclusion or inclusion. The only labels you read are the ones that list allergies.

13. You Understand There Are Many Ways To See The World

A free-thinker is multi-dimensional and sees the world that way. Your best friend studies Buddhism, doesn’t eat meat or onions or garlic and stays away from the demon liquor. Your mum goes to church, runs a mission for orphans and refrains from the naughty words. Your favorite professor is a passionate communist, marks too hard (and with his bias showing) and has worn the same elbow patched stereotype of a tweed coat every day for at least the last 25 years. You like it all.You see the value in each and every way of being and it makes you happy that these people are in the world.

14. You Never Stopped Asking Why

Free-thinkers are confoundingly curious buggers. From about the age of three you’ve been asking why and you’ve never stopped. You now know why you poop, why dogs smell everything and why the caged bird sings. The bigger questions about life fascinate you and you love to explore them. Having said that… you’re still curious about the little things too. A visit to the dentist opens another world for you – so, when you eat sugar, microbial bacteria on your teeth release acids that cause cavities. Interesting…

15. You Have Fun

Free-thinkers don’t take things too seriously when they don’t have to. It’s fun to wrap your head around new ideas. It’s fun to try new things. It’s fun to eat new foods. Life is full of adventures and free thinkers are up for adventure.

Featured photo credit: Young hippie in a red dress dancing in the middle of the road on a hot summer day via shutterstock.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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