After a year of social distancing and little in-person interaction, building connections when you do talk face-to-face with friends, families, and co-workers might be more difficult than it was before the pandemic.
People want to connect on a deeper level through conversation. But some of us have a hard time having conversations that make us feel more connected, fulfilled, and—ultimately—happier.
For some people it can be hard to go beyond the standard, “How are you?” Believe it or not, “How are you?” can be an overwhelming question sometimes. We’re quick to say, “Good!” or “Hanging in there,” because how we’re really doing feels like too much to unpack or too heavy to share with someone else.
Here are a few tips to help us connect and have more meaningful conversations.
Give the person you’re talking to your undivided attention. It’s difficult to connect with someone when you don’t feel that they’re really listening to you. This means more than just tucking your phone away and keeping eye contact. It means really listening and engaging.
Whether it’s with your friends, family, or colleague every conversation is an invitation to learn something.
Curiosity keeps us engaged in the conversation, and will push a conversation beyond surface-level small talk and help you feel closer to the person you’re talking to. So, ask more questions. You’ll learn, and connect with the person you’re talking to.
Ask Good Questions
We tend to ask questions that push our own expectations and bias onto others.
When we ask, “Did that make you mad?” or “Were you happy?” we’re likely to get a one-word “yes” or “no” answer.
Instead, ask “How did that make you feel?” Invite the person you’re talking to to steer the conversation without judgment, and to answer without fear of criticism.
To really listen requires mindfulness:
- Don’t worry about what you’re going to say next.
If you are waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can say what you are thinking, you are not really paying attention. Instead, focus on what the person you are talking to is trying to communicate to you and where they are coming from.
- React less and reflect more.
Sometimes we have knee-jerk reactions to things people say. But you might be too quick to judge what someone is saying. To fully understand what someone is saying, we need to give them the floor to explain—and sometimes figure out—their thoughts. So, before you jump to a conclusion, reflect on why and how that person came to form their opinions and values. And if it is not clear, ask questions to help you understand.
- Let Go
Not every thought that drifts into your head needs a mic. Make sure to let the other person fully finish speaking—and if what you wanted to say is no longer relevant or doesn’t contribute to pushing the conversation further, then let it go.
Top photo: Bigstock
Lisa Bien is a motivational speaker and coach whose column appears twice a month on Woman Around Town. For more information on Lisa, go to her website.