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How to Make Someone Feel Special

I vividly recall meeting and interacting with someone in a backpacker hostel while I was travelling a couple of years ago.

We were sitting in the common area of the hostel and talking to each other while there were lots of things simultaneously happening in the room like people playing music, juggling things and God knows what else.

But despite all of the things that were happening almost right next to us, I was amazed at how the person right in front of me was giving me her undivided attention and keenly listening to whatever I was saying the entire time.

I was talking for quite some time, and not once did she interrupt me or break off her attention.

I couldn’t help but admire how she was hanging onto every word I was saying because, in many ways, this was in contrast to my usual demeanour when I interact with people.

I have the habit of interrupting people mid-sentence when they speak and sometimes jumping in and finishing their sentences by assuming to know what they are going to say.

I believe I may not be the only one who is often guilty of doing this because it is our natural tendency to focus on speaking instead of listening and paying attention to others.

To make matters worse, it’s now common for many of us to be on our phones or multi-task while conversing with someone else, which can make the other person feel disrespected or unvalued.

Being a good listener is an essential skill that can have tremendous benefits in our life, especially in deepening our relationship with others.

In an age of distraction, keenly listening and paying undivided attention to others makes them feel special and valued because people rarely take the effort to do so.

So in this post, I’d like to dive into how to keenly listen and pay attention to people better by providing you with four practical tips you can apply in your daily life.

Be conscious

Usually in our interactions with people, we are only subconsciously present, and therefore our instinctive tendency to speak often overpowers our willingness to listen and pay attention.

Listening in many ways is like practising meditation because you need to become conscious and empty your mind of everything else to make the most of it.

Maintaining eye contact and observing people's body language during conversations can help you snap out of operating out on autopilot and be conscious.

Behave like a good interviewer

A hallmark of a good interviewer is that they are excellent listeners.

They let their guests speak and express themselves and don’t interrupt or jump in and finish their sentence for them by assuming to know what the other person is thinking and feeling.

When in doubt, they also ask questions to clarify and better understand what the person is conveying.

Maintain eye contact and observe body language

Maintaining eye contact conveys to the person that you are listening to what they are saying, and also helps you pick up on non-verbal cues, which can help you understand them better.

But if you are staring at your phone or multi-tasking while conversing, you may completely miss out on their non-verbal cues. So why is that important?

Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language, found that the total impact of a message is about 7 percent verbal (words only) and 38 percent vocal (including tone of voice, inflection, and other sounds) and 55 percent nonverbal.

Everything from facial expressions, head movement, eyes, gestures, and posture speaks volumes, so make it a point to pay attention not only with your ears, but also with your eyes.

Make peace with pauses and silence

A habit that I’ve observed in myself, especially when I am conversing with new people, is that I frantically think of the next thing to say while they are speaking to ensure that there no pause in the conversation.

Even momentary silence in conversations can make many of us feel awkward or even anxious, but moments of silence can allow us to reflect and have more meaningful interactions.

To paraphrase journalist Adam Bryant “The best kind of listening is about being comfortable not knowing what you’re going to say next. Trust that you’ll think of something in the moment based on what the other person just said.

Nowadays, I make it a point to allow space for pauses in conversations so that I can fully absorb what the other person is saying and then respond. Doing this may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

So here is a quick summary of all the points I've discussed to keenly listen and pay attention to others:

  • Be conscious

  • Behave like a good interviewer

  • Maintain eye contact and observe body language

  • Make peace with pauses and silence

I’d encourage you to put these tips to use in your daily life right away so that they stick in your mind, and with practice, becomes how you naturally interact with others.

If you found this post useful, please share it with others— I'd really appreciate it.

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