By Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S
Imagine if you felt heard, important, and respected during most interactions. We do not often leave conversations feeling this way, because many of us aren’t very good at engaging others. When we engage someone, they feel like they matter, are heard, and appreciated. If you care about the person and especially if you want to grow a relationship (personal or professional), learning the skills of engagement is imperative.
- Be a really good listener. Listen for details, so that you can ask specific follow-up questions about what they share. If you are preparing a witty response, planning a grocery list, or consumed with worry about what the other person thinks about you, you are not being a good listener.
- Be curious. People who are interested, are interesting. A common mistake many of us make is talking too much about ourselves. This can come across as though you are trying to convince that person to like you. Instead, ask open ended questions, so it requires more than a “yes” or “no” response. And if you have been listening, you will be able to ask those follow-up questions.
- Is your anxiety getting in the way of being present, or really with someone? If so, you may be putting too much pressure on yourself to be liked and accepted. Take a few deep breaths and trust yourself. A little anxiety is natural and motivating. Too much can be debilitating – consider seeking counseling or coaching if you can relate.
- Speak non-verbally. Make eye contact, smile, have an open stance, lean in, nod…. We are always communicating.
- Show vulnerability. Giving someone a genuine compliment, accepting a compliment, sharing how you feel about something and asking for help are ways we can be more vulnerable. For instance, if you are enjoying the conversation, tell them. If their smile is warm and friendly, let them know.
These skills do not come naturally to many of us. If you want some help, consider the following:
-Get connected with a skilled coach or therapist whom you trust to provide feedback with support and compassion.
-Seek feedback from friends.
-Get out of your comfort zone and practice. Take small risks in your everyday life by striking up conversation, making eye contact, and noticing when your body language could be more open.
-Read Developing High Self-Esteem and Leadership From the Inside Out by Norman Shub, Gestalt as a Way of Life by Cyndy Sheldon