Listening to Yourself

By: Dr. Neil Stafford Posted On Apr 30, 2017

If you haven't guessed by now, I really believe in the value of listening. It's very important to what I do, and how I live. It's what I do whenever I am stuck in the middle of a problem. I listen again to what the other person is saying. What is their point of view, or what do they really want? If I can figure that out then I am closer to finding the solution. 

Listening to the other person is important. Like we talked about before, it gives us an advantage. We know what they want in order to adjust our approach to solve the problem. Yet, we also need to listen to ourselves. What do I want? What I am really trying to say? If I am always just focused on the other person I may just end up going along with what they want. This isn't the best solution. 

So, listening is a two way street. We listen to the other person to understand what they are thinking and feeling, and we need to listen to ourselves to know what we are thinking and feeling. My favorite psychologist, Carl Rogers, talked a lot about knowing yourself. He named it being genuine. It means communicating honestly with the other person. In order to do this, we have to know what we are really thinking and feeling.

How many times has someone asked your opinion about something in a meeting, and you have to pause a few seconds to think of one? Or, do you end up just repeating what someone else said? Then when you leave you think of the five things you really wanted to say. This is why it's important to listen to yourself. It's helpful to take a few moments and sort out what you think. Then you have a chance to contribute more in the situation.

These on the spot moments are important, but being genuine is more than one moment. Carl Rogers said being genuine was one of the most important qualities of a person. Being genuine is about being true to yourself. It's being honest. When I am talking to another person I'm real about my reactions. I share my feelings. I say what I'm thinking. People respect us more when we are genuine. Most people can tell when we are being real with them. 

“In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not.” Carl Rogers in On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy

How do we improve listening to ourselves? Here are three things I've found help me to sort out what I really think. 

1. Spend a few minutes every week being quiet. This doesn't mean you have to sit a do nothing for 20 minutes. It means turn off the TV. Take the earbuds out. Do whatever you're doing without someone talking or singing to you. One of the best times of thinking for me is when I'm doing yard work. It's a couple of hours by myself working outside with nothing complicated to think about. This "quiet time" is time to talk to myself about the problems of the past week, or to generate new ides for the coming week. 

2. Ask yourself what do I want? We have focused on learning about what the other person wants, and really listening to how they feel. Well, what do you want? Ask yourself the question. A lot of times we don't ask. We don't really know. Then we end up doing what we think everyone else wants us to do. Give yourself the chance. Ask the question. What do I really want?

3. Say what you feel. This can mean two things. Most people will think it means to say what's on your mind. This can be helpful. It is one way of being genuine. Saying what you feel also means literally saying the feeling you're having, even if it's just to yourself. It helps me to just say, I feel angry. I feel happy. I'm sad about that. I feel silly. I'm nervous. I learned the idea of "name it to tame it" from Daniel Siegel. In his books he talks about how if are able to say what we feel we reduce the negative effect of the emotion. We are in more control of ourselves. 

“In the brain, naming an emotion can help calm it. Here is where finding words to label an internal experience becomes really helpful. We can call this “Name it to tame it.” And sometimes these low-road states can go beyond being unpleasant and confusing—they can even make life feel terrifying. If that is going on, talk about it. Sharing your experience with others can often make even terrifying moments understood and not traumatizing. Your inner sea and your interpersonal relationships will all benefit from naming what is going on and bringing more integration into your life.” Dan Siegel in Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain

Take some time and listen to yourself. You will be happy with what you discover.

TAGS: Communication, Self Care
About the Author
Dr. Stafford is a clinical psychologist with 11 years experience. His primary experience is with children and families in private practice, and 10 years in the Avondale Elementary School District. Dr. Stafford has earned certification in school psychology, and is the training director for an internship program for school psychologist. Beyond these activities, Dr. Stafford works with adults in his private practice on a broad range of issues including depression and anxiety. He also has interests in the integration of faith and psychology as well as the development of the individual through interpersonal neurobiology.

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