One Guaranteed Way to Deepen Your Relationships
Most people I talk to want to have better relationships.
I know I do!
Full disclosure — I haven’t always had great relationships with people. In the past I wasn’t very happy about the way I showed up a lot of the time. I didn’t feel like I was giving much in my interactions with others.
I was self-serving in my relationships — looking at what I could get out of them and not what I could give. I could be mean in certain situations, not thinking about the other person’s feelings over my own selfish needs.
There were times I would rather be alone than try to be in conversation with someone else. I was insecure about my ability to add to the conversation and that lack of confidence held me back.
It was not a great recipe for quality relationships. Once I realized what I was doing and that I had the power to change it, I began to put more effort into the people around me. I didn’t know what that looked like at first and it took me some time to figure out how to be a quality person in other people’s lives.
Over the last number of years I have been working on strengthening these relationships. In doing this, I learned and implemented a specific tool that has helped me tremendously and now I want to share it with you.
This technique has helped me become a better friend, teacher, coach and parent. It has also helped me feel so much better about the way I show up in relationships. This tool can do the same for you if you choose to use it.
Does this sound too good to be true?
Well it isn’t.
It’s the most amazing tool I’ve ever used to deepen current relationships and build new ones.
Your quality of life will go up and so will the quality of life of the people in your life.
So enough waiting…
This tool is called “Focused Attention”.
It involves focusing on the person in front of you completely for a certain length of time.
There’s so much more to this so let me explain the concept a little further…
When we are in conversation with someone and they are speaking, we are often thinking about the next thing we want to say or how their words affect us. We think about whether we agree or disagree and we plan out what we are going to say next in response to their words.
When you are in your own head while someone is speaking, it robs them of the experience of having you fully listen to them.
Roy T. Bennett, author of “The Light in the Heart” says this:
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
Think of the times when you really felt heard. I would bet they are times when somebody listened to you intently and did some of the following things:
- relayed some of what you said back to you for clarification
- continued to ask you more questions
- just listened and let you talk until you were done
- had good eye contact
- didn’t get distracted by their phone
- encouraged you along the way
What they DIDN’T do was interrupt, make it about THEM, offer advice based on what they thought you should do or change the subject. People don’t feel truly heard when the ‘listener’ is doing any of these things.
It is not wrong in most conversations to go back and forth — in fact that is the norm. However this article is about how to DEEPEN RELATIONSHIPS and one integral way of doing that is through Focused Attention. It shows them that you care when you are willing to let all of your own ‘stuff’ fade away and focus completely on them for a time.
People feel heard, therefore they feel loved and cared for. It is an amazing gift when someone is willing to listen intently to what you are saying and really absorb the information.
They begin to trust you when you show interest in their lives and they will share more with you.
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.” — Roy T. Bennett
This is precisely how you can have deeper relationships.
How You Can Implement This in Your Relationships
Here is a visual of how this can work. If you have dabbled in photography you know about a term called “Aperture”. Aperture refers to the amount of light the lens will let in and also the amount of blur in the background. The picture to the left is a photo I took of the lovely Najwa Zebian. It provides an example of wide-open aperture.
The lens is focused and the wide open aperture allows it to let in a lot of light and blur the background completely. The focus is on the subject and everything else fades away.
I think of this often when I am talking to people. As a life coach, I use the strategy when I’m working with clients as well. I remain wide open, let everything fade away in the background, including my own ‘stuff’, let the light come in and focus on the person in front of me.
How to be a Giver of Focused Attention
1. Focus on the person in front of you completely and let everything else blur into the background.
2. Use eye contact — don’t stare, however showing them you are focused means looking at them when they speak.
3. Clear your mind as much as possible from all other thoughts or personal agendas.
4. Refrain from thinking about what you are going to say next — it will come to you naturally in the moment if you let it.
5. When you believe the person is finished speaking, count 1..2..3 in your head before you respond. Often people aren’t finished and they take a pause to gather their thoughts. Giving them time to keep talking allows them the freedom to continue their thought process if they so desire.
6. When they ARE finished speaking, choose to ask another questioninstead of responding with your own opinion or a connection from your own life. For example, you could ask one of the following questions: “How does that make you feel?”, “What do you think you want to do next?”, “ How is that impacting your life?” All of these are open ended questions that can lead to the person in front of you expressing more and feeling heard.
7. Know that your time to speak will come. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. This will do wonders for your relationships.
Like I said, I have used this tool in many areas of my life and I have seen my relationships get so much stronger because of it. Simply paying attention, asking questions and digging deeper into what people are feeling and thinking has resulted in a greater connection. I feel like I am truly contributing to the lives of others when I listen to them.
Obviously this is not a tool that you will use in every single conversation, as some conversations are based on something entirely different and that can be an amazing way to connect as well.
Focused Attention will be extremely useful when you are looking to deepen a relationship or when someone in your life is struggling and they just need to talk. Being with and listening to them without distractions is giving the gift of love.
If you choose to take this on I would love to hear how it worked for you. Please leave a comment and share your experience!