If you’d like to reduce stress in your life, you might reflect on this question: How well do you listen?

Listening intently saves a lot of time. It keeps you from repeating conversations and tracking down information you’ve already heard.

“Being a good listener takes years,” insists a college professor we’ll call Alex. “My first-grade teacher taught us that you can pay a huge price if you fail to listen.”

Alex says his young class played lots of listening games to detect special facts in stories. He said his teacher explained we all can trust ourselves in tricky situations, if we’ve absorbed crucial information.

Alex says he saw the effects of poor listening in his 20s when he worked in a hospital. “Some workers were very distracted and missed crucial information from the hospital pharmacy and from doctors,” he points out. “Being a lazy listener can literally cost someone his life.”

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Other reasons to practice listening well include:

  • It saves a lot of personal energy. You don’t have to keep fact-checking and digging for information. You’ll better grasp when you can trust your own knowledge of a situation.
  • Other people will see you as a leader. All of us notice others who are confident about facts. We feel a lot safer with people who focus hard, retain clear information and call the right shots.
  • Listening helps you formulate needed questions. When you’re fearful or frustrated, many questions come to mind. If you’ve mastered the art of listening, you can figure out what you need to know.

“My parents often turned a deaf ear to my siblings and me,” says a teacher we’ll call Mr. Dixon. “This made our childhood very frustrating.”

He says he tries to open his students’ grasp of life by holding a classroom debate each week. “Every student is required to be on one side of an issue,” he says. “Next, each student is required to debate the opposite viewpoint.”

By listening to everyone debate, Dixon says it forces you to listen. It opens up thought processes and gives each student a much broader view of the topic. Arguing for and against an issue is good training for becoming a parent or an attorney, he points out.

A political analyst we’ll call Raymond says he started out in life very prejudiced. “I was raised a Republican, and I just wouldn’t listen to a Democrat,” he laughs. “My older cousin was a political science major at the local university. He helped me see that listening to the opposing side would not do me any harm.”

Raymond says he now feels more confident as a political analyst. He writes articles and delivers his opinions on the local news. "My audience must feel I’m offering balanced, intelligent information, which I try to do,” he insists.

Raymond makes it a point to speak with his readers or TV audience members by phone to clarify any opposing viewpoints. He wants to show respect for them, and nothing works like listening better.

Listening is not only a skill, but it’s a game changer to improve married life, the workplace and dealing with customers in business. Opening your mind to different ideas will help you find more common ground.

“A few years back, I wrote an argument supporting my wife’s view about where to go on vacation,” says a therapist we’ll call Jonathan. “I got so carried away, I began to feel her enthusiasm. Ultimately, I agreed to visit the destination she chose. Then later that year, we visited my chosen destination.”

Jonathan says: “If I hadn’t listened to her, I’m sure I would have missed out on a lot. Besides, if we listen well, others know we respect them.”

Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, "Cooling Stress Tips." She is also executive director of USA Wellness Cafe at usawellnesscafe.org. ©2021 Tribune Content Agency