I’ve got a question for you.
Do you have a person in your life that you are close to who you know loves you yet you sometimes feel that they aren’t really interested in your life?
It’s an awful feeling.
Just to clarify what I mean by the word interested in this post. This isn’t about wondering if a guy or girl is interested in starting a relationship with you.
This post is about showing you genuinely care about someone close to you and are interested in what is happening in their lives.
Before we get started, I want to be clear on a couple of things. This is NOT about gossiping about other people, being nosy and intrusive, following them a little too closely on Facebook, trying to control them, or anything along those lines.
Important Note – I am not a medical professional or therapist, so if you are struggling with depression, anxiety or suspect you have a mental illness, please seek help from a trained medical professional.
Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Any compensation I receive does not affect the price you pay.
Okay, now we have all that out of the way, let’s dive into how to show genuine interest in people’s lives.
1. Talk to them
This one, of course, is huge.
If you want people to know you are interested in their lives, you need to talk to them.
Most importantly you need to speak to them in a way that makes sense to them (we’ll be digging into this a lot more in the sections below).
Show interest in people’s hobbies and the things they enjoy doing (even if you don’t enjoy doing them yourself). Ask them about their jobs (again even if you are not interested in their particular occupation yourself).
Having an in-depth genuine conversation with someone is one of the strongest ways to show you are interested in their life.
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2. Listen to them
Nothing says I’m not interested in you more than not listening to someone.
A big thing in today’s world is putting the tech down and by down I mean away completely.
If you are having a one on one conversation with someone you shouldn’t be texting on your phone, checking messages, playing games or talking to someone else on the phone at the same time (unless it’s to tell them briefly that you will speak to them later).
If you really want to have a thoughtful discussion, I would avoid doing it in front of the television. Background music is good but television is too much of a distraction.
Look people in the eye when they are talking to you and listen to them.
Give people your full attention.
Listening is a skill and like anything else, it can be learned.
Mastering your listening skills will not only help your personal relationships but also have a big impact on your career and overall success. Udemy offers some inexpensive online courses to master your listening skills. Two highly rated courses are Listening Skills – The Ultimate Workplace Soft Skills and Effective Listening Skills to Become More Successful
3. Don’t take advantage of a listener
If you have someone close to you who listens to you on a consistent basis that’s great.
The question is – is it reciprocal? When the listener needs someone to talk to are you there for them or do they feel like they are on their own?
Listening should be a two-way street.
I consider myself a fairly good listener but recently I started to feel like I’d turned into ‘the one who listens’ for some of the people closest to me.
The problem was those same people weren’t listening to me at all.
It wasn’t a nice feeling and left me questioning some of my relationships and in particular, if people were really interested in my life – other than for a person they could ring, tell all their troubles to and hang up on, without even asking me how I was doing.
If you have someone who takes the time to listen to you, make sure you return the favor. Your relationship will be a lot stronger for it.
4. Don’t do all the talking all the time
I have written about this one a few times on the blog already but it’s definitely worth mentioning again here.
If you are doing all the talking and making every conversation about you, someone is feeling neglected and may even be questioning how much you really mean to them.
Let people have their turn as well. Don’t be doing all the talking all the time.
Related post – It’s Not All About You
5. Don’t dismiss what the other person says
Have you ever expressed a vulnerability or worry to someone and they have just completely dismissed it?
They might say something like ‘That’s nothing, I’ve had that for years’ or ‘That’s not important’.
This can be said in a thousand different ways but the message is still the same. You and that topic are being dismissed.
It’s important to mention that the tone in which the words are said is important with this one, so that is something to take into consideration. They might actually be trying to connect with you over a problem you have in common, so factor the tone in as well.
If the dismissive tone is there and the person immediately starts talking about their problems, then that’s a sign of dismissal.
Usually, people do this because in their opinion what you are going through doesn’t compare to what they have endured.
Avoid doing this. It makes people feel awful.
Start being more aware of when you might be dismissing another person.
6. Understand someone’s love language
One of the books at the top of my reading list is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
While this particular book was written with married people in mind, it does apply to relationships in general. If you are interested in more specific topics, there are also books relating to children, teenagers, singles, and men.
I originally heard about this book through an interesting video on Facebook by Jay Shetty. (You can watch his video below).
In the video, Jay talks about the five love languages which are (spoiler alert!)
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical touch
When I started reading the preview for this book, I had a mind-boggling AHA moment.
It made me start to understand why sometimes I feel like there is a disconnect with the people I love in my life.
The reason is that we have a different dominant love language.
In summary – we show love in different ways. We also perceive love from others in different ways as well.
Though we experience all 5 of the love languages, we each have a dominant one. Not only is there a dominant one but we also prioritize the other 4 as well. Certain ways of showing love are more important to us than others.
I will use myself as an example here. Out of the list above my lowest priority would be receiving gifts. I prioritize all of the others as more important in my life. Now imagine someone close to me had receiving gifts as their dominant love language. You can see that there could be a clash here. They would most likely be giving gifts to make me feel loved and I would be craving something else from them.
The key to communicating and interacting with the person you love is to work out their dominant love language and then act accordingly.
Just a heads up, once I’ve read this book myself, I’ll do a review post on it, so stay tuned. I’m in the middle of two online courses which I need to finish first, so this book is on my reading list for now! 🙂
7. Spend quality time with people
The emphasis in this heading is on the word quality.
I specifically listed this one after The 5 Love Languages section because I think it warrants special attention and if I am being truly honest with myself, I added it because I believe quality time is my dominant love language.
I feel loved and cared for when people spend quality time with me.
In a tech-focused (or should that be distracted or even obsessed!) world spending quality time together is becoming more important than ever.
Giving people quality time has become more precious than ever.
Make the effort. It will be worth it.
If you have a child who values quality time over everything else, it is even more important.
8. Ask questions
This is all part of the whole talking to each other gig I mentioned earlier.
This isn’t about asking so many questions that someone feels like they are being interrogated.
It’s about letting people know you are interested in their lives by asking relevant questions in regard to what they have said to you.
When people are talking to you about something, ask them questions.
If you pour your heart out to someone close to you and they just look at you and don’t say or ask anything, then turn the topic back to themselves, it doesn’t leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling.
After the reading the book The Four Tendencies I realized that I am a questioner personality type.
As a questioner, I probably need to work on asking fewer questions or more importantly more focused and thoughtful questions.
Ask people questions when you are talking to them, it will help the conversation along and let people know you are interested in what is happening in their lives.
9. Be sympathetic (even if you are struggling yourself)
Be sympathetic to people. Be sympathetic even if you are going through a challenge yourself.
I’m not saying you have to go poor you all over a person (that can actually come across as insincere) but expressing sympathy and compassion when someone is going through a tough time is a way of showing that you care.
10. Be more empathetic
I used to think I was fairly empathetic (with lots of room for improvement mind you) but then I read an interesting take on the meaning of true empathy.
I, unfortunately, can’t remember the exact words or where I read it, but it went something like this.
Empathy isn’t just about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, it’s about thinking how they feel in their shoes.
Basically, it means that we don’t think about how we would feel in their shoes, but we take their personality, history, and feelings into consideration and understand how the situation feels for them (from their point of view – not ours).
This explanation of the word made perfect sense to me.
We might think we are being empathic because we have experienced a similar situation and can therefore relate but we need to think how it feels for the other person.
11. Don’t assume your life is better or worse than someone else’s
I think this is a common one that upsets people.
We tell someone about an issue we are having and they dive right into how they have a bigger problem without so much as a question about how we feel.
They turn the topic into how they have it worse.
This isn’t just about problems. Sometimes people like to let us know their lives are better than ours as well.
People might compare being busy, being happier, being more successful and often throw money into the mix as well (just to make things interesting!)
Don’t compare yourself to other people.
I know this is harder than it sounds but it is a key ingredient to being happy with your life. It’s also a factor in supporting other people and showing an interest in them.
12. Remember stuff
Let’s start by saying you can’t remember everything about everyone and that is just fine.
This isn’t even about remembering birthdays and anniversaries (which I have to admit I am pretty terrible at).
This is about remembering the small but important stuff that goes on in the lives of the people that we love.
It might be something that seems small to us but it is important to them.
It might be something that isn’t happening to them directly but will have a huge impact on their lives going forward (like sick elderly parents for example).
Don’t try to remember everything in your head. Write it down. Put things on your calendar or put a reminder in your mobile to follow up on, which leads me to the next point.
13. Follow up
This is closely connected to the remember one, it just takes it the next step.
Follow up helps people know we are interested in what is going on in their lives.
If your best friend has applied for a big promotion at work, I’m sure they would appreciate you asking how it went the next time you speak to them.
If you don’t speak to each other often that’s fair enough but if you speak to each other on a regular basis a bit of follow up goes a long way to showing someone that you care about them.
Think about it for a moment.
Have you told a close friend or family member something really important and then had no follow up on it at all? How did that make you feel?
I understand people don’t always follow up because they worry it might be bad news and they don’t want to upset their friend or family member. I get that.
But not asking can be hurtful as well.
This is one of the hard parts about communicating and showing that you care. Occasionally we can be more caring by keeping quiet and talking about something completely different. You need to judge this one on a case by case basis.
I think when serious illness or death is involved, you might need to think it over and use your better judgment but for everyday stuff, follow up is a good thing.
14. Don’t take people for granted
Without realizing or meaning to, I think we take each other for granted from time to time.
We might get caught up in a crisis or get really busy and not fully realize how much someone is doing for us or how much they are there for us.
Families are particularly bad at this one because people think certain things are expected when it comes to family. People might expect the family to help them out even though they need to be responsible for themselves.
Be aware of when you are taking someone for granted and take steps to correct your behavior. Showing genuine interest in them and thanking them for all that they do for you might be a good place to start!
15. Use actual words
When I was younger I remember coming home from a day out and saying hello to my family and the response back was a grunt.
No words just a grunt to acknowledge that I had spoken. That didn’t make me feel great.
Actual words are needed in the digital world as well. I’ll admit I’m not a big emoji fan but I do use them. I use them together with words.
Remember The 5 Love Languages book we talked about earlier, one of them was words of affirmation, so if you are sending someone texts filled with emojis and no actual words of affirmation you might not be communicating with that person in the most effective way.
Above all be sincere but say the words
Related post – Do You have Something Important to Say?
16. Let them jibber occasionally
We all have those moments when we talk jibberish, we rattle on not making any sense, we repeat a story or need to talk in (slightly nauseating) depth about a topic (this last category often involves a romantic breakup).
Being in shock can definitely fit into this category as well.
When I was let go from my long-term contract for no reason, I got home called my Mum and was talking total jibberish. I’m sure none of it was making much sense (probably because being let go made no sense). I was in total shock. I was crying. I was devastated at losing a job I loved.
Thankfully my Mum listened to me. She showed she cared and was interested. She was there for me when I needed her and that made a big difference at a horrible time in my life.
Occasionally people are not going to make any sense. Regardless of that, show you are interested and that you care.
17. Participate in small talk
I dislike small talk. I dislike it a lot. I nearly said hate small talk but as mentioned in an earlier post about using certain words in our lives, I am trying to kick the hate word from my vocabulary.
In saying that, I understand that small talk is a way people communicate and a way they try to show interest.
Sometimes we have to adjust our communication style to suit the other person and to connect with them.
Hopefully, the small talk won’t be all the time. Giving someone the small talk option can open the window for a deeper conversation at a later stage.
Related post – Words to Stop Using to Move Your Life Forward
18. Be careful telling other people’s stories
This is something I’ve become more aware of lately and I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of this one myself (so I’ll definitely be working on that).
When someone tells you something that happened in their lives, be careful about following up with a story about what happened to someone else.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with this method of conversation and it can be a way to let people know they are not alone in what happened to them, it can also leave the other person feeling flat (and maybe even a little dismissed).
Be careful that you don’t spend so long telling your story about someone else that you completely neglect talking to the person about their original issue.
The person probably bought it up in the first place because they need someone to talk to. They might be feeling stressed or anxious or excited and they want to talk about it.
Make sure you go back to the person who started the story in the first place to check on how they feel or how they are coping or what they need to do to fix the problem or whatever is appropriate here.
It’s fine to tell your story but check back in with the other person to see how they are doing.
19. Don’t confuse trying to control people with showing an interest in them
I thought I should add this one because sometimes people can be too interested in our lives.
Again this is a big one for families.
Usually, this type of going overboard is about control.
If you are trying to control or run someone else’s life for them, I doubt that you are giving off a caring vibe.
Being overcritical or judgmental – also not a great way of showing you care.
You don’t show interest in a person by constantly telling them all the things they are doing wrong and indicating they are not good enough.
Constructive criticism can be helpful; controlling criticism meant to hurt people is not.
I do understand that the level of influence and interest within families can be different within different cultures and it is something that each individual needs to consider in their own life and circumstances.
Related post – You Are Enough
20. Help out and get involved
Showing you care about someone isn’t all about the way we communicate, you need to get in and help people as well.
Help out when you can but remember this isn’t just about helping with chores and tasks.
Participating in someone’s life is a great way of showing you are interested in it.
I remember at one of my earlier jobs, I was at a morning tea and one of the younger girls was talking about how her parents used to go to all of her sporting events and get involved in things that she was interested in. She made a comment about forgetting that her parents had lives of their own.
This simple comment shocked me as I grew up in a very different generation. My life evolved my parents not the other way around. I grew up in the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ era.
I wish my parents had talked to me more. I wish they had shown more of an interest in my life back then. With that said, we can’t change the past, so my focus is on improving the great relationships I have in my life now.
Telling people you love them is important but if you don’t show an interest in their lives and show them that you care, they may not feel very loved.
If you are going to have close relationships with your friends and family, it helps a hell of a lot if you show interest in their lives.
Show a genuine interest in the lives of the people you love and watch your relationships grow.
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