Have you ever questioned whether someone was actually listening to you or just pretending to listen?
One day, I was sitting in my office when my husband came in and asked if he could interrupt me to ask a question.
I said yes, and he proceeded to ask it. As I listened, I kept my eyes on my computer screen. I was clicking around on the page and giving him an “uh-huh” every few seconds as he explained his situation.
A few moments later, I noticed it was quiet, I looked up and he was staring at me. “Are you even listening?” he asked.
I proceeded to repeat to him the things he had said to prove that I was listening. Clearly frustrated, he finished asking his question. I gave him an answer and he walked away looking unhappy.
Recognizing I had just demonstrated less-than-desirable listening skills, I decided I’d make it up to him later and went back to my computer.
This article isn’t really about listening skills, though. It’s about how to make more friends, better friends, and connect with people in general, so you can improve the number and quality of all types of relationships. Listening is just one small part of this larger topic.
One of the most recognized ways of showing people you care about them, or their time, is to give them your undivided attention. I had given my husband my attention, but it was certainly divided between him and my laptop.
It’s sounds so simple, and yet, it’s actually one of the hardest things we do daily.
Every day, we are bombarded by millions of distractions. And no, that isn’t an exaggeration. Studies show there are millions of bits of information in our environment every second. Our subconscious does most of the work of deciding what to filter out, but we consciously choose the rest.
Think about all of the things around you most of the time just begging for your attention…
Your phone, your computer, your notifications, your tablet, your TV, your music, other people, traffic, nature, advertisements, your personal pains and pleasures both physically and mentally, the noises coming from your appliances, the sources of your stress, etc., etc., etc..
Of all of those things, only one of them feels something with regards to the attention you give it… other people. Your phone, your tablet, your computer, birds, cars, even your stress level—none of them are going to feel hurt or disregarded if you choose to focus on something else. People, however, will.
One of the most important things you can give to another human is your attention.
If you’ve ever thought, “I’d like to have more friends” or “I’d like to get to know that person better” or “I’d like to feel more connected” or “I think we could be closer,” than this can definitely help you.
A few ways to give someone your undivided attention
Look him or her in the eyes. Try not to look over his shoulder at what’s behind him. Don’t look at your phone or computer. Eye contact is paramount for quality communication and making someone feel like they are the most important person/thing in the room.
We don’t control everything in our environment, but we can choose to put the phone on silent, turn it upside down so we don’t see the screen flash with notifications, turn off the TV, or move to a quieter, less busy spot to chat. The less distractions, the easier it will be for you to give someone your full attention.
Verbal and nonverbal feedback
Communication is a two-way street. Make sure you are giving them reason to believe you are following what they are saying in addition to fantastic eye contact. You can nod along when appropriate, use words at appropriate times in their story such as, “really?” or “that’s so cool” or “I see”. You can also ask follow up questions such as, “what did you do next?” or “then what happened?”
The day I had done such a poor job of giving Josh my attention when he asked for it, I did my best to make it up to him. I decided not to stare at my computer the next time he asked to talk to me, and, that night, I made him one of his favorite dishes for dinner AND did the dishes. It was a start.
Bonus Tip: If you really want to make an impression on someone you care for…
Some of those times when you are together and they aren’t asking for your attention… maybe they aren’t talking to you about anything they’d deem super important… try to put the phone, tablet or computer down and still just focus on them completely. Essentially, volunteer your undivided attention, even when they aren’t expecting it. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it makes a big impression.
It’s hard to even think of a time when we are in an empty room. An actual empty room with no distractions whatsoever. The last time I was in an empty room, I was house shopping and stood in a home with no furniture and no electronics. And I’m not suggesting you literally empty the room you’re in so it’s just you and the person you’re giving your attention to. Furniture is heavy and hard to get through doorways. But you can metaphorically empty the room so it’s just you and that person.
In our busy world, it’s difficult to stop what we’re doing and give someone our full attention, but it’s totally worth the effort. It has a huge impact on how we make them feel and how they feel about us.
To connect with others, we must first disconnect.
Did you like this article? If so, please share it with someone else you think could benefit from it or enjoy it. And please comment if you’d like to share any ideas. I’d love to hear what you think.