In the most notorious case of #rude interruptions in MTV Video Music Awards history (seriously, the incident itself deserves an award at this point), Kanye West grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift mid-acceptance speech to congratulate Beyonce on making “one of the best videos of all time.” Almost 10 years later, these A-lister enemies are still feuding (cue: “Look What You Made Me Do”), but the whole ordeal might have been avoided if West was familiar with just one key psychological technique called, well, listening.
According to Kenneth Miller, Ph.D., a psychologist and author, adapting your conversation skills with one simple trick can majorly upgrade all your conversations—whether you’re just chatting about your next brunch venue, or navigating a more awkward topic. In Psychology Today, the psychologist explains a method he learned in psychologist Richard Carlson’s book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff: By simply taking an extra breath before responding, you better the discussion in two ways. First, by giving your friend, co-worker, or significant other the chance to keep speaking if they want to. And second, by allowing yourself the opportunity to consider whether or not your follow-up is truly what you want to say.
Dr. Miller notes that, at first, this method might make the flow of your back and forth feel a little stilted, since we’re all so used to responding immediately—or worse, interjecting—within tennis match-like verbal exchanges. So try starting with a tiny breath that only you will really notice. Eventually, you’ll be able to work your way up to those long, drawn out pauses that therapists drop like total pros (and glean more from every convo).
Ahem, Kanye: Are you listening?
Become the ultimate party conversationalist with these 7 tricks. And if you’re heading out for a first date, here are 3 questions to never, ever ask (and 4 to pose instead).