I’ve learned over-and-over again that if I’m going to listen intentionally, I need to have an active mechanism to keep myself from talking. Purposeful listening strategies will only make a difference in your relationships if you’re able to implement them. You can’t listen when you’re talking, so here’s a list of fourteen ways you can stop yourself from talking:
1. Bite your tongue, lip or inside of your cheek.
2. Put your fist to your mouth (like Rodin’s famous statue, The Thinker) or one or two fingers on your lips.
3. Have a glass of water nearby and take a sip of water when you would normally be compelled to say something.
4. Sit on your hands. (This sounds odd at first, but it is a good reminder—especially for people who do a lot of talking with their hands.)
5. Turn your head to the side slightly such that one of your ears is closer to the person you’re talking with.
6. Put a rubber band around your wrist and when you catch yourself interrupting or talking when you should be listening, give yourself a snap.
7. Hold a small object (a rock or a marble) in your hands to remind yourself to listen.
8. At the risk of developing a different bad habit, put a pen in your mouth.
9. If you’re on the phone, put yourself on mute so you must press a button to say something.
10. To make sure the other person has finished completely, count to three slowly before you start talking.
11. Take notes. Focus on capturing key words and phrases.
12. If you can have a mentor or coach listen to your conversations, have them give you a signal to stop talking.
13. Look at a clock or a stopwatch. Challenge yourself to go longer and longer periods without talking.
14. At times you especially want to let the other person talk, say to yourself, “I’m listening now”.