Building stronger relationships, in both our professional and personal lives, is something that so many of us want to do, we just don’t know where, or how, to start. Here are two easy steps that you can start implementing in your life today that will enhance your relationships.
Level up your listening.
Did you know there are different levels of listening? Listening at Level 1 is self-focused and involves listening to internal dialogue while the other person is talking: “Hmm, I’m not sure I agree with what she is saying right now.”
Level 2 listening is more active and involves listening for what is not being said by noting expression, emotion and underlying values. It requires more attention and focus.
Level 3 listening requires using the whole body and is a more intuitive type of listening because the listener notes what comes up intuitively as they are listening: “When you said that, I got goosebumps of anticipation.” Most of us move through our lives listening at Level 1, at best. If you want to deepen your relationships, try practicing Level 2 or Level 3 listening by being fully present to and curious about the person you’re with. While you’re paying such close attention, watch how others respond to being so deeply heard. There’s a quote that is relevant to using listening to improve relationships:
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” – David Augsberger
Ask better questions.
In a relationship, good questions are small invitations because they are requests for the speaker to go on, and go deeper.
Can you recall the last time you wrapped up a story early because you weren’t sure the listener was interested? Questions are the way we show others we’re curious, we’re engaged, we want more and — as a result — act as relational glue.
To increase the power of your questions, practice asking questions that begin with “what” instead of “why,” which can lead others to feel the need to defend their position or “how,” which can take the conversation down a path of details that are less meaningful. Make sure your questions are truly open-ended and not a suggestion wrapped in a question or a “queggestion,” “what if you tried X,?”.
Next time someone you want to build a stronger relationship with is talking, try asking, “What was that like?” or, “What is the best possible thing you could imagine happening?” Not only will it prolong your conversation, but also your relationship.