How to Stop Thinking While Listening

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How do we stop thinking while listening? If you want to be an outstanding listener, it’s difficult to do that while you’re constantly thinking about the next response. If you want to be an amazing listener, here’re some tips I think you will love that will help you start listening without thinking.

I frequently get compliments about people saying, wow you really listen to me. I can tell you’re not thinking about what you’re going to say but you’re really paying attention to me. This is a very powerful skill whether you are with a partner or trying to get a partner or with friends or family members. The ability to really listen gives us the chance to make really deep relationships with people. Often people won’t tell us all the things we’d really like to hear unless they can see they’re really listening.

Sometimes, we also can make people uncomfortable by really listening because people are so used to talking with other people that are just constantly thinking but aren’t really listening. This can be uncomfortable sometimes because people have this expectation of people are going to be kind of like this and not really listening and when you just stare and really take it all in. People are not used to being paid attention to this much and can get sometimes a little uncomfortable. That’s how you know you’re doing it right. Because some people with a lot of mental activity often that aren’t good listeners themselves will wonder what are you doing.

It’s like I’ve got told several times you’ve got a vacant stare. Yes, it is vacant because I’m not thinking of anything else while you’re talking. I’m just paying attention to you and what you’re saying. The reason I bring these two points up begin with is that you want to know why this is such a valuable skill, to begin with. I’m able to have incredible relationships with people. I’m amazed that the things people tell me, things that often are hardly told to anyone else. I get really good information and I get a really good experience. I enjoy listening to other people talk and then it’s kind of funny if one person talks to me in my mind starts complaining like, oh this idiot.

Then it’s kind of funny like oh what’s triggering you with this person. it’s interesting and I just love listening and the better listener we are, the more effective we are at communication. It’s hard to communicate effectively and really heal and help other people if we’re constantly thinking and we’re not really listening.

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The first step obviously is to diagnose that there is a different way to listen. If you are just experiencing this for the first time and you’re saying, wait a minute I don’t have to think while I’m listening? That’s good because once you realize that the level of listening is possible, then you’re ready to move beyond just listening and being prepared for a reply.

One of the big things that motivate the constant thinking what we’re listening is fear. We’re afraid of not having a response ready. We’re afraid of looking stupid during a moment of awkward silence. We’re afraid of the silence with another person to just look in another person’s eyes for a couple of seconds and nobody’s saying anything. What might happen then? Fear drives our minds to constantly be giving us something all the time because there’s this fear of silence.

What are we going to find out about ourselves and other people if we’re quiet for a moment? thus, things like meditation and prayer are very helpful for using our mind and slowing our brain down. Our soul mind to allow our brain to slow down for a minute and to say, look everything’s okay. You’re not under threat of death. You don’t need to constantly be thinking of things to look smart.

Another thing that stops us from being able to listen effectively is, having this desire that we’ve got to show other people and impress other people with how much we know and the fear of looking like we don’t know. This was a big driver for me for many years I had to look smart. I had to try and impress people all the time. Therefore, when someone was talking, I was constantly working on my reply. If someone was talking about their dog, I’d be coming up with a story about my dog that I could tell immediately. Notice when it happens the other way around.

Notice when other people really listen to you good and how good you feel. This might be rare or it might be common depending on your life. The better you listen to others the more other people will listen to you and a lot of us really just want to be heard. We want to know that someone really took in and shared our life experience with us. The essence of great listening is to join the other person and share their life experience. It’s a direct mind-to-mind connection you’re immersing yourself in their reality.

When someone’s talking about their dog and I’m sitting there thinking about my dog and what kind of dog story I could tell, I’m not really immersed in their entire reality because I’m still rooted in my own. Then as soon as they stop talking for one freaking second, I’m coming out with, well you know this happened to my dog and bla bla bla bla. Stop that catch the song so perfect. Stop talking that bla bla bla think you’ll begin this nah-nah-nah and that’s how it is. I love getting people to be quiet with my listening, that I listen so completely they’ll finally run out of stuff to say and just stop talking and that’s beautiful to me. Sometimes, it takes a while and with some minds, the mind is so geared up, it just runs.

I talked to a family member last night I said, hey how’s it going? They talked 35 minutes straight uninterrupted. I literally did not say anything and they just talked 35 minutes and do what I do to stop thinking while listening is, I just let the thoughts go. The thought will come up in my mind, oh my god really you’re still talking. I’ll just let that go be like, thank God you’re alive and we can talk. I kind of feed that first thought with a loving positive second thought and it just goes away, I return to the center. I understand this is an ongoing practice.

It’s not that you will have no thoughts at all while listening. This is an ongoing practice and the idea is to not get caught up completely with thoughts while listening to someone. It’s okay to have a thought. What I do is, I try and let that thought go. Now, sure there are some times where I really do need to talk and say something.

After 35 minutes last night talking on a phone I said, excuse me I’m going to be letting you go in about five minutes. Are you interested in hearing anything that’s happened with me since the last time we talked? Thus, it is important to be able to interrupt sometimes. However, we want to err on the side of listening usually because we live in the USA like me. It seems that the USA is really putting this whole out to the rest of the world.

If you’re in a culture where there’s constant talking, there’s a deficit of listening. There’s a TV on all the time. There are people yapping all the time. Listening is a really powerful skill that can make a massive difference in a relationship. You can literally end arguments with a partner just by really listening to them. If you need a prayer that’s helpful. The St. Francis Prayer the line in it says, Lord, something like this let me seek to understand rather than be understood. I understand that when I really want to completely understand the other person, this often will alleviate my own feelings.

For example, when I’m mad at my partner, then often the solution is for me to so completely understand her that I will no longer be confused as to why everything happened the way it did. Often, we have these trifling things in our minds that come up well I can’t believe you did this and you said that these can often be fixed completely with really listening. Once you understand the other person’s reality so completely that you can understand, why they did everything and see that they’re doing the best and that maybe they didn’t mean any harm by it or maybe they did and it’s because they’re hurt. Once you can see another person’s reality so completely, then it’ll eliminate feelings within yourself and that’s where the big motivation comes in to be a great listener. When you see that you get benefits often from listening more than talking.

Now, what people love hearing me talk. I go to alcoholics anonymous every day and lots of days I go and I’m like, please God I hope I don’t say anything today. I’d love hearing what’s going on with everyone else. It helps me so much to listen to other people that I just don’t want to talk at all sometimes but we also need to honor that. Well if we like to listen and other people do like listening to us too.

The better listener we are, the more we can talk effectively too because you understand, how people can listen and then you’re not as concerned rather someone’s actually listening or not. When people are listening, it’s often a good time to just be quiet. Well, the other person stopped listening to me make space be quiet let them talk and say what they need to say. It’s wonderful to just be quiet for a second which is ridiculous because I do all these videos and put them in podcast episodes and blog posts. I really do need to talk on them. I don’t know if anyone would want to watch if I just stood here and was silent the whole time but this to me is a skill that I’ve learned that helps in every single situation.

Children, if you’re struggling with a parent just shut the “f” up and listen to your child, really listen. Stop thinking about and let go your thoughts about, what they should do and what they did before and what’s going to happen if they don’t. Just stop all that! Really listen to your child. This has helped me so many times and it helps me like this, I’ll just really listen to my daughter. She’s its bedtime and she wants to play and I want her to go to bed she says, daddy, I want to play a little bit more.

Now, if I’m concerned about talking well, I don’t want you to play. I think you should be brushing your teeth and getting your jammies on and going to bed because if you don’t bla bla. If I do all that, she tends to resist or she does it begrudgingly. She’ll do it but she won’t really like doing it and then there will be more resistance in the future time. When I really listened to her, I’m often able to help her have the shift. I really listen to what she wants. I say, okay I hear that you want to play and let her know often good listening is just communicating that you’ve heard what the other person said and putting it in your own words.

Especially with children, this helps and children learn to talk better. I tell my daughter, okay I hear that you want to keep playing. I love watching you play and how about this? If you play a little bit,  I’ll sit here and watch you play for a little bit. I’d like to get you to bed and watch a TV show with mommy. Can we do that? Thus, she tells me what she wants I process it. Okay, let’s see, how you can get what you want. Here’s what I want, then she really listens back to me. She calculates, okay I’ll get to play a little bit and then I’ll go to bed and I’ll help daddy have some time with mommy. Then all of us are happy. If I’m so focused on what I’m going to say, often the resistance just comes back. The stupid thing is, I could have just let her play usually and be peaceful and happy for five minutes instead of trying to keep talking and I’m not really listening to her.

True listening means experiencing the other person’s reality so much that you understand. I get that, sometimes my daughter it’s just she wants to play a little bit more. She’s got one more little play that she wants to do with her friends. One more scene in her mind she wants to act out and then when I really accept that so much then I’m willing to modify what I want to do so that she can do what she wants to do, then she’ll do the same for me and there’s not a whole bunch of friction. Really listening is miraculous in every area and the key to stopping thinking while listening is to see how much of a difference it makes. Now, once you are clear on how much of a difference it makes when you can literally transform every single relationship in your life by being the best listener you can be. Then the question is what to do when thoughts come up? It’s not the thoughts won’t come up. It’s that if you have the choice to engage with them or believe them.

I was going to get a massage one day a few years ago with a new therapist and the first thought that comes up was, oh my god she is so freaking fat and then now normally that would have got a whole conversation going in my mind. I would have either, oh my god you’re such a jerk for thinking that and then this back and forth. Well, it’s true. The way you stop all this thinking is to stop the conversation internally. To stop this and let go of the back-and-forth dialogue and instead of standing there and trying to, well you’re just a nasty person. I mean I thought, no I’m not. She is. It’s not my fault, she’s fat. She ought to be thinner. Well, it’s not her fault that she has probably got some condition. So well she’s not gonna get me able to give me a good massage, she’s that freaking big. You that’s how my mind used to be all the time and that is a very unpleasant state to exist in. Learning how to be quiet and let the conversations go.

What did I do instead of having that conversation? What I did instead is often asking a really good question in that scenario or just don’t believe the thought and don’t identify with it. So, what does that mean? That means, what I did when I had that thought came up, oh my god how am I gonna get a massage therapist so fat? Then I responded, so I didn’t queue the first thought. I responded to the second thought in my mind like this. Where does that thought come from? And then there were no thoughts after that because that’s a really good question. Then I thought, that’s not me. That’s not how I wholeheartedly feel. I wholeheartedly feel that we can have a great massage regardless of any of the characteristics. How big, how small, how short, how tall, what gender, what color, what age. None of that matters for having a massage.

That’s how I feel and with that kind of focus and power and clarity then there’s no need for a conversation about it. This helps me today when thoughts come up because yes, I find people that want to talk to me that just are like, Jerry oh my god. So, especially I go to the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The new people often have this mind trained that’s just like mine used to be and it can be really hard to listen sometimes.

This is when you find someone that’s hard to listen to, that’s the opportunity to improve your listening skills. Because some people are really easy to listen to. I’m imagining you must think I’m pretty easy to listen to if you’ve got this far into it. Other people, it takes something like divine intervention to be able to listen. The more you can really listen to someone who it’s a struggle to listen to them, the more you will be really good at listening to everyone else.

Alcoholics Anonymous gives me a great lesson on listening to people because some of the people that share and Alcoholics Anonymous are really hard to listen to. Especially, the new people that come in it sounds something like this, oh my God I need to stay sober. My life is falling apart. I’m gonna lose my job and I keep drinking anyway and I don’t understand why this keeps happening but now I can’t go to this meeting every day. It’s just not at the right time and if I leave my job early then they’re gonna fire me and I gave away all my stuff in the pawn shop. And I’m gonna go get it back and I think, I’m just trying to stay sober but I’m gonna go to a good church the next day. I missed Church last Saturday and then I missed it on the other Sunday but I went this time and then I went to the store before and I bought this beer… Dude! that went on like that for 10 or 15 minutes. Whoa!

What helps me when someone is talking like that, is to see this if I can listen to them and I can pay attention to them. (a) I can really help them. (b) I can really help myself and (c) I can listen to anybody else. People love it when you listen to them. A person I was talking to last night that talked for 35 minutes straight literally without me saying anything. They sent me a text message this morning about how much that meant to them, that I was able to talk to them. It makes a huge difference to listen to people. You can heal people just by listening to them. Naturally, when somebody’s talking that much, it can be difficult to keep quiet because when you run into a mind that is heavy with constant thoughts, it will often trigger your own. Many of us can sit somewhere quietly and meditate great in a room by ourselves or we can be really peaceful. I remember I drove to Orlando one time with no music or nothing on. It was just really peaceful in the car by myself not even that many thoughts. I can be really quiet really well lots of times.

Now, stick someone else in front of me that has a mind going a hundred miles an hour and won’t ask for help for anything. The desire tends to come up in me, well I need to get my two cents in here. This guy needs to know how to stay sober. This person needs to understand how to fix their life and when I see that desire is often not what’s going to actually be helpful. When that person can be quiet, that’s when talking will be effective. Often it’s not very effective to talk until the other person wants to be quiet.

Sometimes, I get in front of people with that kind of mental energy and it’ll go and go and go and they’ll stop. And they’ll say, what do you think I should do? Man, I’m like wooo, now it’s my time to shine baby. Now if I’ve prepared a response. It often won’t be very good because it often won’t be exactly what they need to hear. It’s taking a leap of faith to really listen to means often that you don’t know what you’re about to say and that what you say might not come out just perfect all the time. It might not make sense.

If you really want to mix an amazing impact, often you need to not think about what you’re going to say ahead of time because you don’t have all the data until the person’s done talking and you might be answering the wrong question. A lot of times people just want to talk. They don’t really want your opinion. They don’t really want your help and this has been a big lesson for me lately is to stop chasing around people that don’t want my help in trying to tell them and help them and heal them. To be open and available for the people, who do want my help, who do want me to talk, like you, to make sure I have time to make these videos for you and turn this into a podcast for you.

Instead of trying to focus and get people who I think ought to be listening to what I have to say. It’s important that instead of trying to get my opinion in with the person I talked on the phone last night for 35 minutes to really understand them so much that I can make a video or a podcast episode today that’s helpful for you to talk to the same kind of person in your life.

When I really listened to people it also cures me of a lot of my problems. One thing that’s great going Alcoholics Anonymous every day. I often will show up and whatever challenge I have in my life, feels like a heavy load. I listen to every single person and going Alcoholics Anonymous is, where I’ve really learned to listen because it’s torture to sit through a meeting if you don’t really listen. Just being stuck in your head trying to think about what you’re going to say when you know you’re gonna have very little time to talk, it’s tough. When you really listen though it’s so interesting, you hear how people are doing every day. You hear the messages, you need to hear and it’s easy for me to stay sober when I really listen to what the other people are saying because it’s often the exact advice I need.

When I hear how other people are doing, for example, a lady the other night talked to me. Her husband’s just had a big health issue and he’s in the hospital and she’s going through that. It helps me so much to really listen to her and talking to her while mostly listening to her was my inspiration to make this because she said, wow you really listened to me you’re not thinking about what you’re going to say next you were fully engaged in what I’m saying and yes in my mind I am immersed in her universe. I’m with her as she’s going to the hospital with her husband, I’m imagining, I’m picturing exactly what she tells me as if I’m watching a movie. I’m completely engaged in what she’s saying in the feelings that come up and then imagining that in my own scenario basically, I’m totally engaged in what she’s saying and not thinking about what I’m going to say. She said, wow you really are listening to me.

Sometimes, people when you really listen will have a hard time stopping talking because there’s many of us have so few people in our lives that really listen, it just feels so good to talk to someone who’s really taking in everything you have to say and when you find someone who’s a really good listener in your life, they’re often a good person to train with. When you’re with another really good listener. It’s the opposite of being with someone who’s a constant talker.

Often you may have periods of silence, where neither of you talked. I’ve had times where I’ve literally just stared people in the eye for 10, 20, 30 minutes. I went to a conference a couple of years ago and there were these people from a commune in Texas and normally on a day-to-day basis, I am the quietest one around usually and most comfortable looking at someone else, I will look someone in the eye usually until they look away, I ran into them and they just looked straight at me and they didn’t say anything and I got a sensation that was just like being high for almost an hour.

I took turns with three of them and all we did is stare into each other’s eyes and then when we did talk after 10, 20 or 30 minutes of eye contact. We had very short little things to say and what we said was just profound and descriptive. I remember, the one lady I looked at with 10 or 20 minutes and she said something about it was difficult making this trip out of our comfortable home into this place of noise. Where especially watching other people parent is just so difficult. And we both cried when she said that because yes, often one of the worst things to watch when you’re traveling or out somewhere is to watch parenting, to see how children are being treated.

To understand, that’s the best an adult can do is to be smacking their kid or screaming at their kid and that’s the best the kid can do is to be screaming or yelling or trying to terrorize their adult. The parenting sometimes is really hard to see and like just profound things that you know, deep emotion and that are really core experiences of life. There was one of the people that was an attractive girl there and I found myself hesitant to do the same thing with her. The first two people I did it with were just looking straight in the eyes were men and then there was an older woman and then this younger girl who was attractive. I was scared to just look her straight and I for fear of what thoughts would come up and her ability to read my mind. Then after I wasn’t going to even look at her like that but then I felt the fear I’m like, no that’s not how I am.

I don’t give in to fear that easily. What am I afraid of? There’s nothing wrong with just looking and true lack of discrimination, is to see straight into the soul where the body is a secondary thing. And then I had a great experience just having the same kind of no talking eye contact experience with her, letting the thoughts come up and moving beyond them. Letting the thoughts of the body come up into mind and be let go and transcend them.

If you get to that level of listening which obviously there’s not a lot of chances to practice that for me on a daily basis and I’m so grateful that I worked on my listening so much that I was open that I could and can literally just stare someone in the eyes for 30 minutes and not even have the need to talk and yet telepathically communicate. Share the thoughts together and to feel extremely connected. As I said, I felt hi after doing that for an hour to the point where my friend came over and said, hey what we’re going to go out and eat now. He literally had to re-say what he said because the language center and my brain had turned off.

The first time he said something, it sounded like gibberish, it didn’t even make sense. I had to like turn back on the English language in my brain, it was cool, thus, knowing that we can get some incredible experiences while listening, helps us to slow down and stop talking. Now, if you find that the mind train is unstoppable in your own head, you may need some help. I continuously get a lot of help in my life and especially for me, sober life is a prerequisite was for going forward this way. Having a sober life for me is a prerequisite. If I use things like alcohol or drugs, the thinking in my brain just gets out of control to the point where it’s as, if the thinking controls me rather than me being the observer who has some influence over the thoughts.

The tough part about me for getting sober was facing my constant thinking because when I liked about drinking and substitutes for drinking like drugs. What I liked is that, it would slow down my thinking. Returned me to almost an animal state where either I didn’t think or I just immediately acted out whatever I was thinking.

What helps a lot of us stay in those intoxicated States’s, we don’t want to face our crazy minds in sober reality. What I found is that I needed to talk with people that really listened to me and I needed to clear out the deepest garbage inside my brain and then that I was clinging to with my soul. For that, I needed people who really listened to me. Thank God, I found some people in Alcoholics Anonymous, who I knew I could say anything to them safely and that they would really listen and understand me. Now, if you’re not an alcoholic, there are lots of other places this is possible. I have a massage therapist now where I have this kind of relationship and she’s not an alcoholic.

I have a hypnotherapist who I have this kind of relationship, I have lots of family and friends now with this same kind of relationship too. For me, I learned how to be a great listener. The foundation of it you know Alcoholics Anonymous. Then, I’ve branched out into doing that into all the rest of my life today. This is as much to help me, as it is to help you. To understand that often while I’m talking, I’m the one that needs to hear what I have to say more than anybody else.

I can’t help anybody who’s not really listening to me and interested in what I have to say, that whatever I have to say will do no good if someone else is just constantly thinking about what they have to say and distracted. I might as well be quiet and listen to them until they get to a point where they’re comfortable enough to stop all the mental thinking or interested enough to let go of their own thoughts and join me in my reality.

Wow! If you were thinking during this whole thing, this has probably been torture for you. So, you’re welcome for an outstanding session. Thank you very much for going through this with me. I hope this is really helpful for you. I’m imagining how much this can help. I love the idea of having a world where we can really listen to each other. I understand the hypocrisy of doing a video or podcast about how to stop thinking while listening, while I’ve been talking the whole time. I trust this is helpful for you if you’ve got this far. If you want more like this you can go to jerrybanfield.com/podcast to listen or I’ve got these in vlog format on YouTube, it’s called the Jerry Banfield vlog. It’s got a playlist of all videos like this, where you can just get these kinds of videos. I love you, you’re awesome.

Thank you very much for being here with me. If you’d like to test out my listening skills, I trust you go to jerrybanfield.com where you can schedule a free 30-minute call with me and if you need me to just listen to you, you can even hire me hourly and I was shut the F up. Listen to what you’ve got to say and whenever you’re done talking if that point comes then maybe, I’ll have something to say. If you want to test drive my listening skills, I trust you can give that a shot at jerrybanfield.com.

Love,
Jerry Banfield