Every single person you will ever meet shares one common desire. They want to know…”Do you see me?” “Do you hear me?” “Does what I say mean anything to you?” – Oprah Winfrey
It happens all the time: You are in the middle of a conversation with someone, passionately discussing what you deem important or exciting, and within a few minutes, you notice the other person’s eyes wandering. You then hear your inner voice asking, “Does this person even want to talk to me? Do they even care about what I’m saying?” It feels downright awful. Yet, I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never been distracted for one reason or another, giving off some negative vibe to the person I was speaking to myself.
There is no doubt that we all are less-than-stellar listeners, at some point. And most likely, it is unintentional when it does happen. We have a lot on our mind and in a world where countless tasks, technologies and activities are competing for our attention, it is hard to stay focused. But, when it comes to connecting with people, Oprah has it right: We all want to be heard. And we all want to feel we matter.
- On the Phone: Just today, I was on the phone speaking with someone about an important topic. Yet, I found myself clicking away at my computer. I finally got up and left the room so I could focus on what they were saying. It made a world of difference. And I’m sure, the other person had a much better conversation too. If you are on the phone, step away from your computer, turn off your alerts and find a spot where you can speak to the person without any beeps, dings or alarms.
- In Person: If you are in person, do the same. Cell-phones have become an accessory, buzzing on tables and in our pockets, alerting us of some of the most mundane things. Turn these off when you are speaking to someone so that you can remain focused. Also, limit televisions, radio and other distracting devices during conversations so that you can focus on the conversation.
- Make Eye Contact: It can be challenging, but look people in the eye as much as possible when they are speaking. They will feel like you are really paying attention and hearing what they are saying. It will also help you connect with them on a deeper level.
- Be a Participant: Ask questions. Repeat back key points. Nod and shake your head. Actively participate in the conversation. This will not only make the other person feel that what they are saying is interesting, but will help you stay engaged so you are less likely to seem or appear distracted.
- Validate: Each person deals with things differently. If someone is upset, avoid downplaying the situation. It can come off as insincere or as though their feelings aren’t important or valid. Also, avoid the temptation of telling them what they want to hear just to appease them.
Do you find that you can become easily distracted during conversations? What small changes have you made to stay focused?
Adapted from 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You. Make real, lasting change with this easy to follow, week-by-week guide to healthy change. Get it now at Amazon.com.