Human interactions fascinate me. From how we are being perceived when we first meet someone new to how we maintain the relationships, these are all very complex things that require time, care and thoughtfulness to develop into something deeper and more meaningful. Of course, you will not have a connection with everyone you meet. But I’d also urge you to not close the door on someone just because your made a quick judgement on that person. Maybe he had a bad day before meeting you and that was why he seemed unresponsive to your jokes. Our brain does funny things to us. Once we formed an impression on someone, it will always be the first thing we associate that person with – good or bad.
I have been putting a few things to test these past couple of months to see if I can cultivate better relationships with new and old friends, and even family members. These are also things that I feel are making me into a better person.
1. Listen. Truly listen to people. Don’t get distracted by thinking of what you want to say in response to that person because if you are doing that, you aren’t listening. People really do love to hear themselves talk. Also,our brain is trained to notice the subtlest of non-verbal cues so people will notice when your eyes wander or have a split second of micro-expression of a frown even if is not on a conscious level. So pay attention and be present.
2. Ask Why Questions. These are value questions that will give you insights on what the other person cares about which will let you bond on a deeper level. For example, asking someone “What would be a perfect day for you?” and in response he/she says: “A stroll in the farmers’ market and spending the day in the kitchen cooking.” Always follow up with the question “Why?”. You will get a meaningful look into what that person likes and values most.
3. Learn to say ‘No’. We are wired to believe the saying ‘No’ to people is considered to be rude, aloof and unfriendly. But saying ‘No’ to people isn’t the end of the world. Your time is valuable and how you choose to use it is entirely up to you. Stretching yourself thin is one of the worst thing that you could do to yourself. You become stressful, moody, you fail to deliver at times and even boring because you are just trying to get things done. People will understand if you give them good reasons why you said ‘No’ … and be polite about it. Tell them that you appreciate that they thought of you for the tasks and thank them for their understanding. This shows people that you know how to prioritize things in your life and you don’t over promise on things that you know you can’t deliver. It shows you know what your limits are and you are humble about it. People will respect you more.
4. Quiet time and solitude. This is one of the main thing for me, some peace and quiet. I need to retreat and recharge after interacting with people for a few days. I think is important that everyone takes time out for themselves and just be. Is a time for you to reflect and do things that you love to do. With constant daily stimulation, those ‘me-times’ could really help you put things into perspective and make you appreciate the little things in life. Is ironic how our culture praises and values autonomy, personal freedom and individualism more than ever in this day and age yet people are terrified of being alone with themselves. Let me clarify, aloneness does not equate to loneliness.
5. Pause before you speak and make eye contact. So following point #1, after you have listened, all along, giving that person your full attention and maintain eye contact, pause for around 2 seconds before you give a response. This is something that I still struggle with. Why the pause? Because it indicates that you are absorbing the information that was just presented to you and that you are giving it the thought and consideration it deserves. It also conveys confidence because let’s face it, silence, even for a split second, can be quite uncomfortable. Is a skill that highly charismatic people have. Think Bill Clinton. (Got this from the book: The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane).
That’s it so far. I am sure I will be adding to this list on a regular basis.