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Since losing my wife, I’ve had many people come up to me and offer their support. Oftentimes, the conversation turns to them sharing a loss of someone they knew or someone they know who is experiencing the same situation with cancer. I know they mean well and are trying to connect, but it doesn’t work. This realization is not meant to bash anyone, in fact, I have thought back to the many conversations where I have done the same thing.
We don’t connect with people through us talking. We connect by listening. Listening is an art form and we are losing the art! Connecting with people is hard because we often think others think as we do. Therefore, we try to relate in our terms. Really listening to people will guarantee our connection with them. Let’s become better listeners! Here are a couple of tips to help you:
When someone is talking try to really focus all of your attention on them. Don’t start thinking of any replies yet. Just focus on what they are saying and try to connect with their words. Focus on not only what they say but how they are saying it. You will pick up more communication signals when you watch intently as well as listen intently.
Stop distractions! Your phone can wait. Ignoring your buzzing watch shows the other person you care for them more than the random text message. I’ve had people stop mid-sentence in conversations with me to look at their watch to see what the latest text messages they received. Conversations die quickly when distractions take over.
After someone talks, don’t speak right away. Pause for a few seconds and think through what they said. You may want to ask a follow-up question or ask them to elaborate on something. Whatever it is, if you pause and keep them as the center of the conversation, I guarantee your connections will be much stronger.
We fear silence today. The noise and distractions of our life can make us avoid silence at all costs. Don’t fear silence or think it is awkward. It would only be awkward if you didn’t listen and had no thoughts or followup questions to what they had said. Silence with focus communicates your care to people. Your pause shows them that what they said carries meaning for you. Silence can be a blessing right before you ask another question because they would feel like you were actually listening.
If you have trouble connecting with your boss, your wife, or your kids, change your focus. Start thinking through the things you can do to become a better listener and help people feel valued.
Pick one person today that you are going to really focus on what they say.