Let’s Get Interpersonal: Focusing Our Full Attention on Others

When we listen to what others say, we gain insight into what they are thinking and feeling and can better understand why others think the way they do, and why they do some of the things they do.

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Now that Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, it is important that we examine the nature of our interpersonal relationships, and how we approach communication can make a big difference in how well we get along with romantic partners, friends, and acquaintances. Interpersonal Communication is a broad topic, and interpersonal interactions can be complicated. That said, paying attention, listening, and asking the right questions can greatly improve the quality of our day to day interactions.

Many of us feel better about ourselves and the world whenever we are around certain people. Most of the time, we just go along with these feelings, and do not think about why these people draw us in. Sometimes this comes down to chemistry. More often than not, it involves feeling like the other person is really focused on you.

So how do you start showing that you are focused on the people with whom you interact, especially when you haven’t been doing that in the past? The first step to focusing more on your significant other, or others with whom you have interpersonal relationships, is to talk less and listen more. When we listen to what others say, we gain insight into what they are thinking and feeling and can better understand why others think the way they do, and why they do some of the things they do.

Listening is more than hearing. People often say “I hear you” to reassure others that they are paying attention to them. Though this expression has good intentions, hearing is not enough. Hearing is a physical sense. It is sound going into your ears and bouncing off of your eardrums. It may facilitate listening, but it is totally different.

Listening is a skill. Listening is a specific attempt to gather information from the other people you are communicating with. It is taking in their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on a topic before jumping in with your own opinion.

Ask Open-ended Questions. This means asking questions that cannot be answered with just a “yes” or “no.” When someone is talking, and takes a short pause (don’t interrupt), ask how the event they are discussing came to be, or why they feel the way they do about the experience they are discussing. This confirms that you are in fact listening to them, and makes them feel special. It also allows you to get to know that person better, and “what makes them tick.”14724073632_be85a28161_z

Mobile and Social Media Applications: If your interaction is online, you may not be face to face, but you can still apply some parts of what it means to be a good listener. If you get a text that is too vague to figure out what the other person means, call or text them back to ask questions to clarify what they mean. Often, social media applications have limit the depth and breadth of the communication that can be achieved by using it, such as Twitter’s 140 character limit. Realistically, social media are a large part of our everyday communication, and cannot and should not be avoided. However, if you require more information from someone after using these media, feel free to extend the conversation to a private message, e-mail, or face-to face interaction to build upon the communication that you have begun with this individual.