When you're concentrating on making your point, defending yourself, winning an interaction, or being right, you're probably not noticing me (the other person). I might be getting upset, my feelings could be hurt, or maybe I'm bored or just tuned out.
Here’s a tip: Paying attention to me and my reactions are as important (if not more important) than whatever you are saying. It may not feel that way to you, but that's how relationships work best.
So while you are speaking to me, it's helpful to also observe me, the other person. Then you'll be able to see if I'm listening to you and/or reacting to something you've said either positively or negatively.
And when you notice that something is happening to me, such as an eye roll, seeming distracted, upset, etc..., it's a good idea to stop whatever you are saying, and ask me about your observation. You can simply and sincerely say: "What's going on?", but DO NOT just keep talking, especially if my reaction is undeniably obvious to both of us.
When you keep talking, you continue to focus on yourself instead of me, and that makes me feel unimportant… and maybe even invisible. I'm led to believe that whatever you're saying must be more important than I am to you at that moment. It's not a good feeling.
And if I tell you that your comment hurt my feelings or upset me, then you should take responsibility and simply apologize, because (I'm hoping) that was not your intention. Please don't get defensive or become angry towards me, just let me know that you weren't intending to get me upset. That's all I need you to do.
Therefore, if while your speaking, you notice me and my reactions, it makes me feel more connected to you... and that's a good thing!
Caveat: You don't have to comment on every little nuance, such a smile or a sigh, but if my reaction is a strong one, then take a moment to check in.
To recap... Pay attention to me when we're having a conversation and stop whatever you're saying when you see that I have a reaction. Ask me about it, then own your part before continuing with whatever you were saying.
This is one way to defuse a potential argument and it can also immediately change the trajectory of a conversation.
And... this important tip applies to interactions both at home and at work.
*This is also Step #3 of the Relationship Protocol model :)
[This article also appears on ThriveGlobal.com and on TheRelationshipProtocol.com website]
Notes for Professionals:
This is one way to teach your clients how to be more responsive to each other. If they can participate in the conversation while also observing the other person, they are beginning to be more relational.
Our job is to reinforce their efforts. Helping them to notice each other’s facial expressions, body language or sarcastic comments, etc., during your meetings. When you stop the action and ask about the other person’s reaction, you are also modeling Step #3 for them :)
Remember, Step #3 of the Relationship Protocol model comes into play when one person notices that the other person is reacting to something that they are saying. Then they immediately ask them about their observation. The moment that the person who is talking stops whatever they’re saying to respectfully ask about a reaction that they observed, they are making a caring gesture. This creates a connectivity between them, as long as the question about their observation comes from a sincere and curious place.
Next, if they said or did something that was upsetting the other person, they need to own their part without getting defensive and just apologize. Apologizing in that moment can be (and usually is) a humbling and tough thing to do, but it’s also a powerful tool for starting to trust each other’s intentions. Please encourage it!