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Do you create barriers between yourself and others?

posted 2 Mar 2014, 18:08 by Suzi Wallis   [ updated 2 Mar 2014, 21:55 ]
We all want to connect with people meaningfully, or we might as well go live on a desert island somewhere. Sometimes an interaction is just to get a need met, and it's not deep at all. You may be self-sabotaging all kinds of encounters without even realising, and creating barriers between you and others with some unconscious behaviours. These could be:
  • Multi-tasking: when you carry out other tasks like checking your phone or computer, reading, filing or anything that's not strictly listening/engaging behaviour, you could be sending the message that the other person isn't important, or that you'd rather be doing something else.
  • Looking away: you don't want to stare at someone all the time you are having a conversation, but looking away and focussing on other objects/people looks like you don't care. Minimal encourages like regular eye contact, nodding, hmmms and lightly repeating back part of what you've heard all send the signal that you're interested and listening.
  • Always being right: if you are engaged in a general conversation and someone hasn't asked for your expert opinion, correcting them when you believe they are wrong will most likely create a defensive reaction. If the other person notices you doing it frequently (or more than once), chances are they'll avoid speaking to you except when absolutely necessary.
  • Trying to cheer people up: this is a funny one. With the best of intentions, if you tell someone "It'll be alright" or "You'll find a way", you could be minimising what they are feeling. Most people respond really well to empathy - just reflect back what you see. Examples are "That must be really tough right now" or "Sounds like a big load you're carrying" validate what the person is feeling, and often gives them the space to come up with their own solutions. If they still appear to be struggling, you could enquire about what you could do to help.
  • Having a mismatched volume or tone: if your tone or volume is significantly different to your audience, it may look like you are trying to increase your audience, rather than engage with the one you already have. Note how loud the other person is speaking - see if you can match it. The same goes with their tone. People feel more heard and listened to when the other participants are respecting the boundaries they have set with their example.
Have a think about whether you get caught up in any of these behaviours. If you do, be kind to yourself (after all, you were doing the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time), take a breath and choose another option. People will seek you out more often if you are considered a good and intentional listener and speaker.

Suzi Wallis | Mar 2013