Whether you’re interviewing for a job or on a first date with someone, there’s something to be said about breathing before you speak. Before you’re about to open your mouth telling a hiring manager why you’re the right person for a job or your date about all your crazy travel stories, taking a breath before you speak could actually make you listen better.
Sure, everyone loves conversation — but everyone also loves to talk over each other. Finishing each other’s sentences can be cute, but often it can be obnoxious as it is in-sync. Some could argue that the interjection of self into a conversation is selfish but we all do it. But do enough of us actually listen to what someone else has to say?
Well, here’s an argument for how to become a better listener.
Amsterdam-based psychologist Kenneth E. Miller penned a piece in 2018 arguing that by taking a breath before speaking, it can make you a better listener. As a therapist, his job is to listen to other people speak. By nature, one would assume Miller is a good listener because it is his job to listen. However, he admitted that even he sometimes forgets perhaps the most powerful tool of listening: silence.
“Too often I find myself not allowing enough silence, not giving clients enough time to gather their thoughts, sit with their feelings, simply be in the presence of a supportive witness,” Miller wrote for Psychology Today, via Khaleej Times. “And it’s not just clients whom I deprive of this quiet space; when I respond too quickly with a question, a comment, or a reflection, I also deny myself the gift of time to sit with my own thoughts, feelings, and possible responses.”
Miller said he’s caught himself in everyday conversations inserting himself into someone else’s thoughts by finishing a sentence or speaking over someone else. Sometimes, it can be the excitement of a conversation that drives a person to interject themselves into someone’s dialogue, but he said it could be anxiety due to sitting in silence.
Does it actually work? Miller says yes. Through his therapy practice, he said offering a brief quiet space lets individuals sit with their experience and thoughts. It invites them to continue speaking.
“Something else often happens when I take that breath with clients: at least half the time, I reconsider what I was about to say, either saying nothing at all, or something different than I would have said without the breath. The gift of a moment’s reflection is a gift to myself as well,” he wrote.
So remember, breathe in and out before you talk.