How to make deeper connections by becoming a better listener
Listening goes beyond just hearing what others are saying, there is an art behind making deeper, lasting connections with people. When we allow ourselves to be present, we create room to process words without distraction, actively seeking to understand. In life, it is important to treat others the way you want to be treated and a great place to start is with listening. We want our thoughts to be heard, but that means putting in the time to understand what others are saying. Let’s discuss some tips on how to practice being a good listener to ensure we make deeper connections and form lasting relationships.
To begin, it is important to initiate conversations, as opposed to waiting for others to approach you. Start with an open mind and read the situation, this will set you up for making a positive connection. Imagine turning a switch on in your head that engages you to be present with that person, in that moment. Once dialogue commences, one can practice the following techniques to ensure the conversation proceeds smoothly for both parties.
Practice active listening. Utilise verbal responses and body language techniques, such as, eye contact, hand gestures and length of pauses between words. For someone to be interested in you, they must feel that you are interested in them. Listen to how the person is making their statement. Are there pauses in their delivery? What are their facial expressions? Does their tone or diction fluctuate with their body movements? Finding this awareness will give you insight on the emotions behind their thoughts. In active listening, it is important to practice the following: (1) Ask open-ended questions, and avoid using one word answers. Engaging on a deeper level will lead the conversation to new places and keep it active. (2) Hear and react to their response. It is easy to notice when someone is engaged in conversation and when they are distracted by external thoughts. Be attentive by expressing your availability, show that you heard them and react accordingly.
Connect on an emotional level. It is easy to listen on a logical level but it is crucial to consider the thoughts and feelings behind what they are saying. This is the beauty of empathy, it is a process of endearment that leaves lasting connections that resonate on an emotional level. It breaks down barriers of reality that would otherwise cloud our ability to open up. Ask questions like “what’s your story?” Or seek information by leading with a statement like, “tell me something interesting about where you grew up.” This shows that you are wanting to engage on a deeper level, beyond small talk, and are interested in gaining personal knowledge.
Try to be flexible. It is important to stop and read the situation. Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt like their energy was much higher than yours? I have, and coming from an introvert, I can say it is quite uncomfortable. Nothing takes us out of our comfort zone like an overwhelming situation, so take time to feel out the vibes. The same goes for context, one must always be aware of their audience. This is where our friend empathy plays its part. As an empath, I find this part of conversations to be particularly easy because the first thing I do is try to understand how the other person is feeling. For some, this doesn’t come as naturally. One thing that some people have a hard time reading, is when to use sarcasm. Humour can lighten any conversation, but can just as easily ruin one. Tread lightly, use comedy sparingly and know that some people just don’t react well to it.
Happiness and meaningful conversations go hand in hand. Humans are built to seek meaning in our lives and an easy way to do that is to engage in meaningful interactions with others. Good conversations, just like almost all other aspects of life, take practice. From a young age, my family raised me to ask questions. Our open-minded, somewhat bohemian family created a comfortable space that welcomed curiosity and encouraged self-discovery. My grandpa is a well-practiced psychologist and my leading behavior role model. I have a vivid memory of one family dinner when I was about fifteen. My grandpa said “I will give you a dollar for every question that you ask tonight that sparks an engaging conversation.” Whether monetary instigation is the proper approach is beside the point. At the time, I acted as any fifteen year old would by rolling my eyes and dismissing his idea with a shoulder shrug. I was preoccupied with texting my friends and avoiding my incomplete homework that was due the next day. Needless to say, I didn’t take home any money that evening. I wanted to share this story because I frequently revisit the lesson that my grandpa taught me all those years ago. In order to truly understand others, and therefore make deeper connections, one must ask.
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