Habit 11 from the 12 Habits of Resilient + Thriving People

Each week for 12 weeks, I’ll blog about one habit. And if you feel inclined, you can road test it for yourself. Habit 11 is about Listening.


Habit 11: Listening


They are great listeners (ears and eyes). They know that deep listening creates connections, enables empathy, develops social skills, and builds confidence. They seek to understand.


It would be understandable if you think this blog is going to be about listening to others. Or active listening as it is often called. And it is. But that’s only half the blog.


Listening to ourselves

Our self-talk (silent dialogue) and language (external dialogue), provides us with a window into our thoughts and beliefs. This language is an expression of what we think, feel, and believe. Our language feeds our thoughts and beliefs; and our thoughts and beliefs feed our language.

Thoughts and beliefs (1).png

If you speak and think negatively, you’ll notice your mood lowers, you anticipate negative outcomes, you may feel stressed or tension, and you’ll feel powerless as though you have no control over the events/experiences in your life.


“Look outside today, it’s so cloudy and looks like rain. It’ll be just my luck to get caught in a downpour on the way to the office. I haven’t had my usual Winter head cold yet. Today’s probably the day for it to grab hold of me.”


Sounds so cheery doesn’t it? I run a million miles away from these folk. Compare it to:


“Look outside today, looks cloudy and we could get some rain. I’ll put my raincoat in my bag just in case. A good reason to have a hot vegetable soup from the cafe next door to the office for lunch. I love his soups!”


Same day, different language. Different language, different thoughts.


There is a lot of research about language that suggests the connection between what you say and what you think is important (Pennebaker, Mehl and Niederhoffer, 2003). For example, those suffering with depression tend to use more “first person singular pronouns” such as “I” and a lack of “second and third person pronouns” such as “we” and “he”. This may suggest a focus on self and a lack of connection to others.  


The language of introverts and extroverts has also been studied (Gill and Oberlander 2002). Extroverts will use words such as “want”, “need” and “able to” when describing their ability to do something. Introverts will use words such as “trying to” or “possibly” when describing the same. Are you listening to your external dialogue?


Harder to notice, but just as important, is the silent dialogue we have with ourselves. There’s continuous chit-chat going on. And the chances are it’s self-critical. The most critical person in your life is most likely you. “I bet I don’t get the job. I’ll never lose weight. I could never run a marathon. I’m hopeless at speaking up. I have no willpower.” It doesn’t matter whether you say these words to yourself silently or say them out loud. Your brain processes and stores them the same way.


If you want to build resilience and live a thriving life, then what you say matters. And the only way you’ll know what you say is to LISTEN to what you say.


Listening to others

We know how important it is for building rapport, tapping into empathy, and generally being a good human. With regular practice, anyone can hone the skill. Here’s what I find helps me stay engaged:

  1. Listen with your eyes and ears. This really is easy. There are no excuses for not doing this. Don’t stare like a deer in headlights, just genuinely listen with your eyes and ears.

  2. Don’t judge. This is harder because your silent dialogue is itching to get external. Suspending judgment and not pre-empting helps you to become a better listener.

  3. Be curious. Ask questions. This helps with no. 2 above.

Habit 11: Road Test

Listen to your external dialogue this week and ask yourself this: “what does ‘what I’m saying’ say about what I think, feel, or believe?” Remember, your language impacts your thinking and beliefs.