Did you ever spend a day with someone and feel as though they weren’t there? You may have occupied the same room but you just didn’t connect. Whether this is an isolated occurrence or the hallmark of that relationship, it could be a warning sign of trouble ahead.
Unfortunately, broken relationships don’t happen in a vacuum. Many of us unknowingly erect communication barriers, making it difficult for relationships to thrive. Here are some common symptoms: You find yourself repeating things over and over again because you’re not sure you’re being heard; even though you talk often, the bond between the two of you isn’t very deep; although you spend a lot of time together, the relationship doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, you seem to be drifting apart. In the business arena, you have weekly meetings yet you rarely seem to be on the same page.
10 Warning Signs of a Conversation Going Bad
Communication barriers don’t happen to us, they’re created by us. So as easy as it is for us to create them, we can also tear them down. They key is to be conscious of our actions. Do any of these folks or attitudes sound familiar?
Juggler. Some people are always multitasking. They try to do so much that you’re never really sure if they’re merely “hearing” you –– or actually listening to what you have to say.
Busy bee. Some folks rush from activity to activity with no time to spare. Good luck pinning them down to have a civilized conversation.
Distracted. Some people can’t spell focus. They look at their watch, shout instructions, or pick up the phone while they talk to you.
Daydreamer. Some folks may be physically present, yet their mind is clearly somewhere else. (Huh…did you say something?)
Hard shell. Some people are so guarded that you can’t expect more than a trivial conversation. You may know them for years and still call them an acquaintance.
Taskmaster. Some folks reduce you to an item on their to-do list. They call or visit you because they have to, not because they want to (and it shows).
Intolerant. Some people with personal bias or prejudice “shut down” when certain topics come up. If they don’t agree with your position, they may hear you, but they’re not really listening.
Gift giver. Some folks believe that gifts are a substitute for attention. The Beatles were right when they said, “I don’t care too much for money, for money can’t buy me love.”
Game player. Some people make you feel like you’re playing Wheel of Fortune. They call you from their car and due to bad cell service, all you hear is every fourth word. I guess we’re expected to fill in the blanks.
Egotist. Some folks are so busy talking about themselves that they never even consider that you might have something to say. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.”
Looking for a Meaningful Conversation?
Here are some activities that’ll help strengthen conversations and enhance relationships:
Buy some breathing room. When an agenda is packed too tight, there’s a tendency to spend more time maintaining your schedule than focusing on the moment. The best way to combat overscheduling is by saying no to low-priority items so that you can say yes to high-priority ones.
Avoid distractions. Give your undivided attention to the person you’re with. Put down your phone. Stop looking at the clock. Yes…the to-do list can wait.
Choose your location wisely. It’s difficult to have a productive conversation in a loud restaurant or bar. So choose a place that’s conducive to discussion.
Make the person feel special. Be genuine. Make eye contact. Make the person you’re with feel like he or she is the only one who matters (at least for that moment).
Turn off the television. If you’re looking for quality time, watching TV together hinders conversation. You may know a lot about the program but little about what’s happening in his or her life.
Keep a level head. A few drinks make great company. After a few more, you probably won’t have a meaningful conversation, much less remember what you talked about.
Never respond emotionally. If you’re angry or upset, count to ten before communicating your feelings. If that doesn’t work, count to twenty.
Be genuine and truthful. Honesty is a critical ingredient of a trusting relationship. It’s important to tell it like it is, rather than placate people by telling them what they want to hear.
Show that you care. Make sure that you don’t dominate the conversation. Listen actively rather than thinking about your response. Be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes. Read between the lines. Speak slowly, in language they’ll understand. Validate your understanding of what you discussed.
Get the signal. If you’re “visiting” someone via cell phone, make sure that you have a strong signal. And don’t surf the web during the conversation.
Being Present Is Not the Same As Being There
In an effort to accomplish more, we multitask, overcommit ourselves, and try to squeeze as much as we can into the day. The result is that by choosing quantity over quality, we end up compromising something very special –– meaningful conversations. Is that what you want?
Sometimes life’s biggest challenges are best addressed by going back to basics. In the case of meaningful conversations, that means focusing, listening, and caring. While the world is moving at light speed, slowing down may actually increase your productivity and make life more rewarding. Meaningful conversations are the linchpin of any successful relationship. You may not have the control to lengthen your life, but you can do much to deepen it. Meaningful conversations don’t happen by chance.