If you want better/more productive conversations instead of heated discussions, you can improve your listening skills by practicing this habit to keep your mouth shut.
I always had a hard time keeping my mouth shut even as a child. For some reason, I was born hardwired to speak my mind.
This has served me well for the most part. Being a confident speaker opened up opportunities, widened my network, and allowed me to create a life I love while helping others.
It’s also a major reason why I created the Big Life Mindset. Like I always say— if it adds value to my life, I’ll share it with you.
Unfortunately, being outspoken also has a downside.
For the longest time, I had no idea how to keep my mouth shut.
Every time I wanted to say something, I’d just do it. After all, conversations are all about taking turns, yes? I speak, you speak, I speak again. Rinse and repeat. Right?
This turned conversations into a dead end. Sure, I heard the other person, but I was only waiting for my cue to speak. Internally, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I was wrapped up in my own thoughts and coming up with the perfect reply.
Because of this, I cheated myself out of making deeper connections and learning as much as I can from my conversation partners.
And all because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.
Over the years, I’ve met a few people who knew exactly when to speak and when to shut up. Something magical always happens around these individuals.
Talking to them made me feel seen and understood. I felt like I could trust them with my deepest secrets. I also felt safe enough to be myself around them. And the best part? They didn’t even have to open their mouths to make it happen!
I wanted to know how they did it.
As it turned out, there was no big secret.
In fact, it was unbelievably simple.
Get your Big Life Mindset toolbox ready, because today, I’m sharing a new tool:
How to keep your mouth shut, a.k.a. the EASIEST WAY to become a better listener.
Hearing Vs. Listening: What’s the Difference?
Right now, you may be thinking, “I can hear people just fine. What does keeping your mouth shut have to do with that?”
Well, my friend, because hearing is entirely different from listening.
Hearing is the Bare Minimum
Hearing is what happens when vibrations hit our ear, and our brain processes them as sound. It’s a physical process that takes no effort at all. Sadly, it’s the only thing that most people know how to do. Just letting words enter one ear and go out the other.
Listening is a Learned Skill
When you listen, you’re fully present with your conversation partner. You don’t just hear their words— you process it, relate to it, understand it. It’s connecting mentally and emotionally to anyone you’re talking to.
Once you start to truly listen, you’ll notice a few things start to happen:
· People become more comfortable sharing intimate things with you, such as their hopes, dreams, fears, and other things that show their true selves.
· You become calmer, more patient, and better at diffusing conflict with anyone. When you keep your mouth shut, you’re more focused on understanding the other person, not trying to rebut everything they say.
- You become more confident because you’re less self-conscious about saying the right thing.
- You learn more about others and the world around you.
- It helps to boost your productivity because you’re not missing out on critical information.
- Your relationships become stronger. You become a better friend and loved one. At work, your team starts seeing you as more knowledgeable and capable. You find yourself being able to relate to anyone.
- You become happier.
And all because you finally kept your mouth shut!
Keep in mind that unlike hearing, listening is a skill. This means you need conscious and consistent effort to develop it.
This also means that ANYONE can be a better listener.
If I was able to do it, so can you!
All it takes are two simple steps.
Why is it hard to keep your mouth shut?
Isn’t it strange how hard it is to just say nothing? Think about it. You literally just have to keep your mouth shut. But in most cases, it feels so impossible.
Here are some reasons that can make it hard to keep your mouth shut, such as when you:
- think you’re right.
- feel awkward when it’s quiet.
- want to fit in.
- want to look assertive and confident.
- like to look smart and capable.
- want to feel important.
- want people to listen to you.
- genuinely want to help.
Ironically, you can accomplish all of those when you keep your mouth shut.
How do I learn to keep my mouth shut?
I find that when I’m talking to somebody and my mouth is open, I tend to think about what I’m going to say next and how I’m going to say it. That makes it almost impossible to focus on what the other person is saying.
After doing this my whole life, it pretty much became an ingrained habit.
To break that habit, I had to start being mindful about what I did during conversations.
Eventually, I found that being a better listener was actually quite simple. The solution, quite literally, is to close your mouth!
Two Simple Steps
The next time you’re talking to somebody, observe yourself. Are you truly listening, or are you formulating your response while they’re speaking? If it’s the latter, try this exercise:
1. Close your mouth.
2. Breathe through your nose.
Two simple steps, that’s it.
Just like that, you become more focused on the person in front of you. You’re not waiting for your turn to speak anymore.
It may take time to break your poor listening habits, but I promise you it works.
When should you keep your mouth shut?
Okay, so now you know how to keep your mouth shut.
Now, it’s time to learn when to do it.
The quick answer is: as often as you can, as much as you can.
But there are certain situations when the wisest thing to do is to keep your mouth shut:
· Keep your mouth shut when you’re angry.
Preacher Henry Ward Beecher once said, “Speak when you’re angry, and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Anger turns our words into poison. It makes us want to lash out and hurt the other person. Fortunately, the anger passes, but unfortunately, the damage from those words rarely does.
Therefore, it’s better not to say nothing until you’ve had a chance to calmed down.
· Keep your mouth shut when you don’t have all the facts.
The quickest way to a misunderstanding is speaking before you know the entire situation.
Before you say anything about anything, make sure you have all the information first. This can mean doing more research, seeking the sides of all persons involved in the issue, or simply letting it go.
· Keep your mouth shut when the issue is none of your business.
If an issue has nothing to do with you, stay silent. This prevents you from getting caught up in potential conflict or making the situation worse.
· Keep your mouth shut when no one asked for your opinion.
There’s a reason why everyone hates receiving unsolicited advice— most of the time, it’s not given out of concern, but out of wanting to sound smart.
· Keep your mouth shut when someone is opening up to you.
It takes a lot for other people to open their heart to you. Let them speak and don’t interrupt. Pay 100% attention to their words. When you listen, you’re creating a safe and welcoming space where people can share their deepest thoughts and feelings.
· Keep your mouth shut if you’ve already said something once.
Unless someone asked you to repeat what you said, stay quiet after you’ve already said something once. Otherwise, you may fall into the trap of nagging.
· Keep your mouth shut if it’s getting yourself in trouble.
“If you’re digging a hole for yourself, then stop digging!” And it’s so true! If you’re already in trouble, the best thing to do is not to say anything. This allows you to take control of yourself, assess the situation, and avoid making it worse.
· Keep your mouth shut when you’re just bragging.
There’s a huge difference between sharing your accomplishments and bragging about it. If you find yourself trying to one up someone else, keep your mouth shut instead.
· Keep your mouth shut when you can’t win.
If you’re in an argument with someone who refuses to listen to your side, it’s best to stay quiet during these times. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, especially not someone who won’t listen to you.
· Keep your mouth shut when you’re supposed to be working instead.
Don’t let chit chat stand in the way of your productivity. If you’re in the middle of something, put away your phone. Settle somewhere quiet. Train yourself to focus on your tasks instead of using conversation to procrastinate.
· Keep your mouth shut when you’re feeling critical.
Constructive criticism is great, but unless you’re absolutely sure your criticism will help the other person, try not to say anything. You may also ask them if they’re open to critique. Otherwise, your words can be harmful instead of doing good.
· Keep your mouth shut when you’re meeting new people.
This doesn’t mean not speaking at all! It means allowing people to talk about themselves more than talking about you. It’s like magic— the more you listen to other people, the more interested they are about what you have to say, too.
· Keep your mouth shut when you have nothing useful to say.
So many people are uncomfortable with silence. Because of this, they prattle on and on about nothing. It’s better to keep your mouth shut unless you have something meaningful to say.
The thing about these situations is that they make it really, really hard to keep your mouth shut.
For example, ranting when you’re angry can feel so satisfying in the moment. Giving our opinions makes us feel important and boosts our ego. But ultimately, being unable to keep your mouth shut can do more harm than good.
So, try it.
Close your mouth.
Breathe through your nose.
Discover the power of silence.
Enjoy Better Conversations Today
Keep your mouth shut— easier said than done, isn’t it?
But trust me, learning how to listen is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for others.
Again, remember these two steps:
· Close your mouth.
· Breathe through your nose.
That’s it. Try to do this the next time you talk to somebody, and see the difference.