In this era of most heads bent down while looking at a screen of some sort, primarily mobile phones and tablets, it's becoming commonplace to see a couple or a group of people out socializing together but focused on their phones or laptops rather than each other. Are you guilty of this, and/or do you have a method for disconnecting from technology and actually talking to people?
This relationship tip is simple, but for some, this will be very hard: Put the phone down, and pay attention to your friend, family member, or loved one.
More and more articles are coming out on how we are getting more disconnected from each other due to mobile devices and the constant need to check our media streams, messages, news sources and so forth, and even that kids aren't learning how to hold conversations as they prefer to text message.
Are we doomed? We'll let history decide that one, but in the mean time, if you want to improve your relationships, one of the fastest ways to do that is to be very attentive to the other person or people you are with. Genuine and authentic attentiveness on a regular basis will do more to strengthen and improve your relationships than nearly anything. Why? Because attention from those we love and respect makes us feel loved and respected, to put it simply. If there is real dialogue happening, if we feel really heard, if we see that nothing but us is in their line of sight, it simply feels really good, and we want to spend more time with that person.
There are a few basic tips for being really attentive:
- Make a lot of eye contact: Don't be creepy about it, just look in their eyes as much as possible. Don't look at your phone, around the room, or no where in particular. You will learn a lot about watching someone's emotions and expressions as they talk, and you will get to know them better.
- Use attentive body language: Lean toward them, have your arms and body posture open and relaxed, mirror their body language at times (without overdoing it).
- Repeat or reflect to them what you hear them say, to show that you are listening and trying to understand them, that you are interested in their life and feelings and thoughts.
- Don't do any distracting behaviors or in any way give a sign you're bored or have something better to do. Don't answer the phone if it rings or respond to a text, don't check your watch, don't look around the room at others, don't stare blankly out the window, don't fidget or tap your fingers. If you're completely listening and absorbed in the conversation, this won't happen, so if you feel your attention straying because you catch yourself doing these things, snap back to the conversation and apologize if needed.
- Say the person's name and let them do more talking. People love two things: Hearing their name and the sound of their own voice.
- Let them lead the conversation. Don't try to counsel them or change their minds, just listen and affirm them as much as possible. You will get your time to talk and they will be attentive to you another time, or maybe later in the conversation.
- Smile, let kindness and care show on your face and in your gestures.
- Depending on the relationship, hold their hand, touch their arm, or do other such affectionate gestures based on the connection you have with them.
Flowers, gifts, fancy dinners, nothing material beats the simple act of real attentiveness. This should not be a chore, or difficult if you really care about someone. Doing this makes it easier to put the phone down and disconnect from stuff out there, and focus on what's right in front of you: Someone you love and care about.
More resources on attentiveness:
How to make your relationship unshakable - see #5 in particular