Whether we are hosting a much needed dinner party with our closest ladies, or establishing our creative community at a networking event, we want to take full advantage of this time! It would be easy to stick to small talk, the latest gossip and newest trends during our time together, but time is short(!) and we would be wise to use our conversations to develop deeper and more genuine relationships, helping each other grow, and spurring one another on toward our dreams.
It’s easy to forget, to get distracted, to develop bad habits. And when we do, our relationships suffer, and we lack true connection. So let’s go back to the basics. Take these five suggestions and resolve to keep them in the back of your mind. Then pull back them back out during your next get-together so you can continue cultivating a community that really supports one another.
Don’t make assumptions.
Go into every conversation reminding yourself that the person with whom you are speaking is a human being with a story. She holds the beliefs and values she does for valid reasons… ones you will not have the privilege of knowing unless you are able to open your mind and listen closely. Even the people we think we know best can surprise us. So hear people out. Don’t assume they will think, feel, or react a certain way. Use your conversations as learning experiences by putting yourself in others’ shoes. Everyone you speak to has lived a different story and has gained wisdom through her encounters with life that we could all benefit from.
Even the people we think we know best can surprise us. So hear people out. Don’t assume they will think, feel, or react a certain way. Use your conversations as learning experiences by putting yourself in others’ shoes.
Put your phone down.
Yea, yea, yea, we hear this one a lot…Put your phone down and be where you are. But for a lot of us (I’ll be the first to raise my guilty hand), this is a bad habit we have a difficult time shaking. We have to be constantly checking our social media and text messages for fear of missing out on something. But in the meantime, we are certainly missing out on the individuals right in front of us!
If you have to take a pic (I get it), snap a few then post later (everyone knows “latergrams” happen more often than “Instagrams” anyway, and that’s ten minutes of editing filters and choosing captions that can be spent really being present with your tribe).
If you work for a business or organization that needs you to be constantly active on social media, using tools like Hootsuite or scheduling posts on Facebook can help your brand still be “present” on the Internet without you really being there. Find some tricks that will help you to stay consistently in front of your audience on social media, without being distracted while with your evening’s company.
Make eye contact.
We know we’re supposed to make eye contact with the person we’re talking to, but let’s admit it: we’re not that great at actually doing it most of the time. Have you ever been on the receiving end of a conversation where someone doesn’t make eye contact with you? Conversely, have you ever spoken with someone who really looks at you, undistracted by all of the things going on around you? You probably notice a huge difference in how comfortable you feel talking with them and how eager you might be to continue building a relationship. Something as simple as good eye contact can communicate to someone that she matters, that she has your full attention, and that you care about what she is saying.
- Repeat back what was said to you in your own words: “so what I hear you saying is…” is usually the most common form of this, but put your own spin on it! This lets them know you are tracking the convo. It also can help your brain remember the conversation so you are able to recall it later and follow up.
- While she’s talking, really pay attention to what she’s saying instead of preparing your response. If you’re planning what to say once she’s finished talking, your attention is not really on her and you’re not truly engaged. Just hear her.
- Even if you really are listening, people need to know you are. Be sure to communicate to that you are listening by using body language. Make eye contact, nod your head, and reassure who you are listening to that you’re really present with vocal cues. Again, this seems like a no brainer, but I’m sure you have been on the receiving end of someone whose body language is clearly communicating to you that she’s not all that interested in what you’re saying!
Something as simple as good eye contact can communicate to someone that she matters, that she has your full attention, and that you care about what she is saying.
Ask good questions.
It’s easy to stick with the standard: “What do you do? Where do you live? Got any summer plans?” But, without being too intrusive, try to dig deeper.
In more intimate settings with the ladies you know well, ask about dreams or goals for this year, or about things she’s done in life that she’s proud of or what she regrets. Ask about her current fears or about the relationships in her life and the struggles she faces with them.
In less intimate settings, when you’re interacting with people you don’t know as well or networking with, get creative with your questions: what would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow? What is the first thing you would do if you were elected president? What’s your idea of a perfect day? You can learn a lot of fun things about each other by going beyond the typical questions and asking ones outside the norm.
If we really want to build a healthy and supportive tribe, we have to start with the basics. We can have all the dinner parties and get-togethers we want, but what actually happens at those gatherings is what is so vital to cultivating quality relationships. So next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone, pay attention to the way you are listening and how distracted you are. Ask yourself honestly if you are making assumptions about someone or if you are keeping an open mind. Pay attention to whether you are asking more questions or giving more answers. If we can keep establishing these habits, not only will people feel much more cared for, but we will be stronger together.
Photos by Whitney Darling