Jacky Leonard's blog

Archive entries for: Apr-2015

Are You Engaging?

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

My last Blog focused on helping you get engaged with yourself?

In this one, I'd like to turn the focus onto those people that are most important to you…your friends, family and your partner.

How’s your relationship with them? 

How much quality time are you spending with the people you care most about?

It can be difficult to spread yourself around when you’re busy juggling the demands of home, family and work.  How can you ensure that when you are with your nearest and dearest you’re making the most of the time you have together and giving them your undivided attention, rather than checking your emails, updating your status on social media, or watching TV?  And…even when you manage to put down the electronic gadgetry how do you stay present and in the moment with them instead of getting distracted by something else?

Here are some helpful tips to enable you to stay focussed and fully engaged with the people you love most.

 1.  Listen and be interested

Immerse yourself in what they have to say.  Make eye contact and apply active listening.  It’s not as easy as it might seem.  Your brain works twice as fast as you speak and is constantly trying to make connections and associations with things it already knows.  This makes it very easy to become distracted by your internal chatter and even if you manage to shut it off you may get caught ‘waiting to interrupt.’  You know, that phase where a person says something that resonates with you and you can’t wait to contribute your two pence worth.  At this point you stop listening, because all you want to do now is tell the person your story.

Here’s a technique I learned a few years ago, which will help you stay focussed on what the person is saying.  It’s called Rapid Repeat and it works like this.  When someone speaks to you, you repeat exactly what they say, just after they say it.  Be careful to do this in your head, not out loud.  Like any technique it requires practice before you’ll become skilled at it.  It’s worth the effort as it’s a truly powerful tool that will instantly help you engage with others.  It does however come with a health warning.  You can’t tune in constantly. It’s hard work being an excellent listener and you will get tired. You may also find people who know you well, might find your new found ability to be attentive a trifle odd, especially if you’re not a particularly good listener right now.  Persevere with it the benefits are worth it.  You’ll be able to respond better because you actually hear more.  People you know will believe you care more about them and those you meet will find you more engaging, interesting and empathetic just because you’re giving them a good listening to.

 2.  Respect each other’s differences

There’s a good chance you’ll share many of the values your friends and family hold dear.  However, the order in which they sit in your own particular hierarchy of importance might be quite different.  Wouldn’t life would be boring if you all shared exactly the same perspective?  There is strength in diversity.  Once you start really listening to your loved ones; they might surprise you.  It’s good to find common ground, but just as important to be able to voice your differences and learn to appreciate those things that make you and each of them unique.       

 3.  Be patient

If patience is a virtue, how virtuous are you, with yourself as well as others? We live in a fast paced world with sadly, little time to ‘stand and stare.’ With deadlines to meet and tight timescales you can find yourself rushing from task to task, forgetting to acknowledge the people around you.  When this happens, it’s tricky not to become impatient, intolerant and judgemental.  Sometimes your nearest and dearest need to share things with you that are really important to them.  If you are distracted or rushing headlong into the next job they might find it difficult to share or articulate their thoughts and feelings.  It might be they just don’t express themselves in the same way you do.  Remember communication is a two way process that involves transmitting and receiving so take a little time observe their body language, consider their needs and listen to what’s not being said. 

My grandmother has just reached the ripe old age of 98.  She lives independently, is mobile and still quite sharp mentally.  However, she is now prone to repeating the same stories.  We’ve all heard them before…a number of times, but she still insists on telling them as if it’s their first airing.  I guess at here age there are less new experiences to share.  We’re lucky to still have her here sharing experiences none of us have had and probably never will.

4.  Share new experiences

Plan to do something with each other.  Go for a walk, head to the gym or join a local interest group.  Participate in something you’ll both/all enjoy, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen.  It can be very easy to get into a rut, or unhealthy routine with those closest to you and before you know it your life comprises of very little else than work, eat, sleep.  There are plenty of wonderful things to see, hear and do and once you’ve experienced these things you’ll have a rich source of topics to share in conversation.

I’m fortunate to live in Cheltenham, where we have a wonderful programme of town festivals throughout the year.  Jazz, Literature, Music, Science, Food and of course The Races.  Many of these festivals have free activities and showcases, so you can get out and soak up the atmosphere gratis.  What’s going on in your area that you could share and enjoy with your friends or family?

 5.  Turn off the Visual Valium

In my opinion, TV, or visual Valium as I like to call it, is a conversation stopper and relationship killer.  Don’t get me wrong there are wonderful dramas, comedies and documentaries available to you at the flick of a switch, but it may be worth limiting your time in front of the telly, particularly when you’re in the company of others.  It’s not a particularly interactive medium, unless you’re building in a healthy discussion about what you’ve just watched.   It’s also easy to get territorial over the remote which usually results in resentment from those who don’t have control.  Agree those things you really want to watch (together or separately), then turn off the set and step away from the remote.

 6.  Be Kind

Kind is an interesting word.  Like many words in the English dictionary it means different things to different people.  There’s kind as in generous, or caring, or thoughtful.  What sort of kindness do your loved ones need from you?  Is it a simple gift to show you’re thinking of them, a sincere word of thanks or genuine compliment, a demonstration of your affection in the form of a cup of tea after a hard day, or giving them a jolly good listening to? Consider how you can be kind to someone you care about today.

 7.  Appreciate each other

It’s easy to take those you love for granted.  After all, they’ve probably been with you through thick and thin; enjoyed you at your best and supported you through your worst.  You may subconsciously have huge, maybe even unrealistic expectations of them.  Try to focus on the positives (there are probably loads of them), rather than identifying what they’re not doing.  Say thank you more regularly…and mean it and pay them a genuine compliment.  Remind them what you like about them, why they’re important to you and how much you miss them when you haven’t seen them for a while. 

There you go, 7 re-engagement tips.  Try them and see what response you get.