Being a Better Listener can help you Live Longer

Jan Fowler

is author of the best-selling book, “Hot Chocolate for Seniors”(winner of national & international awards); winner of Gold Halo Award from the So. California Motion Picture Council for Outstanding Literary Achievement; winner of First Place Excellence in Journalism Award (SPJ –Southern CA); Town & Gown “Phenomenal Woman” Award; former television host & KSPA radio host of “Senior Living at its Best with Jan Fowler”; speaker, contributing author for “Savvy Women Revving Up for Success”; founder of Starburst Inspirations, Inc. 501(c) (3) nonprofit which supports Redlands Drug Court. Jan welcomes feedback and comments about her columns and invites you to leave her a message on her website.

“Being a Better Listener can help you Live Longer

by Jan Fowler


I never realized it before but I recently learned that if we restrain ourselves from cutting in and interrupting conversations, we may very well be lowering our risk for heart attack.  Yes, according to recent studies, researchers have found that people who interrupt others are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease–47 percent more likely, to be exact–than those who wait patiently for us to finish our sentences.


You see, the truth is that from time to time I am most undeniably and shamefully among the guilty, which is exactly why such studies caught my eye and captured my attention in the first place.  One study in particular found that subjects tested were able to demonstrate lower stress hormones and blood pressure levels without the use of medications or dietary changes simply by being good listeners.


Now surely we don’t have to be old enough to remember 78 RPM records, Studebaker sedans, or Vicks VapoRub to recall that in our early youth when we were taught polite manners we learned that interrupting is rude behavior.


Interrupting implies rude disinterest.  For most people, interrupting others mid-sentence is merely a habit or the result of mild tension or nervousness.


So if you want to be a better listener, focus on listening and remaining silent while others are talking, and use the five-second delay technique before responding, a habit practiced by many counselors, clergy, and psychiatrists–so that the overall conversational tempo is not rushed.


Also, please bear in mind that if a listener constantly interrupts you, it may be a signal that you’re simply being wordy or too long-winded and you aren’t pausing often enough to allow for two-way conversational exchange.


Have you ever noticed how there’s a rhythmic harmony to the art of conversational turn-taking?  In fact, the Japanese even remain silent and refrain from interrupting while someone is slowly going through the process of thinking about and formulating their answer or response.


It has been theorized that “interrupters” are generally Type A personalities and have the tendency to be excessively controlling and competitive.


So how should you handle people when they interrupt?  Well, there’s really nothing to be gained by becoming cross or getting angry.  I suggest either continuing to repeat the same sentence as often as necessary, (the “broken record” techique) in an effort to complete it, or politely state, “Please allow me to finish my thought.”


In summary, being a better listener helps us live longer.


Speaking about interruptions, there are some ways in which we can defend ourselves from outside intrusions and put a few protections in place.  For example, to avoid unnecessary interruptions from telemarketers, we can block unwanted calls by dialing (*888) 382-1222 or registering online at http://www.donotcall.cgov.


So before you overtalk me, cut me off, or send me off to anger management, we can still keep a cool head if we remember “Mother’s Manners.”  There is nothing to be gained by becoming cross at people who just talk too much, she said.  “Stay calm and always be polite.  By showing patience people will see that you have good breeding.”


Little did she know that by staying patient and calm, we may also be helping to lower our risk for coronary heart disease.


Jan Fowler is an award-winning columnist and author who may be reached at

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.