No matter how good we think we are at interacting with other people, there is always room for improvement. Whether we realize it or not we all make mistakes communicating with other people that can harm our relationships. When we stop making these mistakes our connection with the people in our lives can improve significantly.
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Let’s dive into 6 mistakes we make interacting with other people that can harm our relationships
Not acknowledging someone’s feelings
I think we’re all guilty of this from time to time, without even realizing it.
What we may view as being supportive can actually feel like our feelings aren’t being acknowledged. When people feel dismissed, unacknowledged, or insignificant it can cause resentment and conflict.
I’ll give you a personal example of something that happened to me recently.
I was asked to relieve someone for two days at work. I had filled in for this person in the past and it was always stressful. It’s a much higher position with a lot more responsibility. It had been 18 months since I’d last relieved in the role, I’d forgotten a lot of what was involved plus many of the systems had changed, so it felt like unfamiliar territory.
I knew I would get through the 2 days, but I was feeling a bit anxious about it. To be honest, I was dreading it.
When I discussed it with family and friends they told me it wouldn’t be that bad, I’d be fine and I shouldn’t worry about it.
All of which made me feel more anxious.
What would have been comforting was if someone had acknowledged my reasons for feeling anxious instead of dismissing my feelings.
I ended up feeling more anxious trying to justify why I was feeling anxious in the first place! If someone had said something like, I can understand that would make you feel anxious, I would have felt more supported.
It got me thinking about how many times I might have done the exact same thing when I am trying to support someone!
Next time when you are trying to support someone, a good starting point might be acknowledging how they are feeling and then moving forward from there.
This isn’t about fawning all over someone with sympathy and oh you poor thing platitudes, it’s more a simple acknowledgment of how someone feels.
No one likes to have their feelings dismissed. When we dismiss people, it makes them feel like we don’t care.
Books that can help interacting with other people –
- The Art of People: The 11 People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want by Dave Kerpen
- Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards
- The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane
- Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High by K Patterson, J Grenny, R McMillan and A Switzler
Making it all about you
It’s not always easy sharing our thoughts and feelings with other people. Opening up to people can make us feel vulnerable (which let’s face it, we humans aren’t always that good at).
When we do open up to other people the last thing we want is to have them immediately change the topic onto themselves.
Constantly changing the topic to ourselves is another way we dismiss people’s feelings.
We might think that we are helping the person we are talking to by showing them that we can relate to them through our own experiences but unfortunately, that’s often not how it comes across.
When we immediately turn the topic onto ourselves, it makes the other person feel like we don’t care what they are saying.
In a nutshell, it makes them feel worse.
It can make people feel like we don’t really care how they feel and that we would rather talk about ourselves.
If you do make the mistake of jumping to talking about yourself, make it brief and then return to the person and ask them a follow-up question, so that they can continue expressing their feelings.
Thoughtful and caring follow-up questions are a key part of interacting with other people. Just remember follow-up questions should show that you care – not feel like an interrogation!
Follow-up questions are great because they show that you were listening, which leads to my next important point.
Related posts –
- It’s Not All About You
- Want to have Better Conversations? – Stop Doing This One Thing
- How to Have Those Hard Conversations
- How to Have a Two-Way Conversation
If you want to effectively interact with people, you need to listen to them.
Sometimes having someone truly listen to us is what we need more than anything else.
We may need to vent our feelings, process our emotions, or work through a problem. Remember a lot of people process their emotions and work through problems while talking about them, so having someone listen is important.
What many of us really need is someone to listen without judgment.
Listening without judgment (or at the very least without expressing judgment) is vitally important to forming stronger relationships.
Listening without judgment is also a lot harder to do than we realize because we hear through the filter of our own experiences and values.
If we don’t listen to our loved ones, they may feel like we don’t care about them and that’s something we definitely don’t want.
Related posts and books –
- 20 Ways to Show a Genuine Interest in People’s Lives
- I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships by Michael S. Sorensen
- You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why it Matters by Kate Murphy
Not giving people your attention
In our attention-starved and constantly distracted world, giving people your attention is important.
In fact, to listen effectively, you need to give people your full attention (so put the mobile phone far, far away!)
Giving people your attention means giving them your time.
In the brilliant book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, one of the 5 languages is quality time. People who have quality time as their primary love language need to spend quality time with the people they care about to truly feel loved. So if your partner, child, or best friend values quality time above all else, then to improve your relationship, quality time should also be a priority for you.
The emphasis here is on quality, so sitting around watching television shows that don’t connect people in any way does not count! The 5 Love Languages is a great little book so if you want to improve your relationships, I highly recommend this one!
Give people your undivided attention, show that you genuinely care about them, and watch your relationships flourish and grow.
Related post – 12 Best Books on Having Better Conversations
Trying to fix people’s problems
I’m definitely guilty of this one at times. Being passionate about personal growth means I seek out ways to improve and grow. I’m constantly reading excellent books and implementing the relevant techniques and strategies that they recommend.
So when one of my friends says she has a problem with such and such, I mention a powerful strategy I read about in a book. This might even be a strategy I am using myself and one that I know works (which is why I get so excited about it).
But that’s not what my friend needs and the truth is even if it is what she needs, I can’t make her read that book or try that strategy or anything else for that matter.
I can’t fix her problem for her. Only she can fix her problem.
Only she can decide if she is ready to fix her problem.
This can be one of the hardest things about interacting with other people. We want to be supportive and help. We want to show we care.
Yet often we go too far and come across as controlling and judgmental. By behaving in this way, we make people feel not good enough (which harms them and our relationship overall).
People have to fix their own problems, in their own time (which I realize can be very frustrating to witness).
Be supportive and caring, listen when they need you, and be there when they need help and assistance. You can offer advice when they ask for it but ultimately let them fix their own problems.
Assuming you know what people are thinking
This one is where we think we are mind readers. We assume we know what someone else is thinking.
I have to say, the older I get, the more I realize this is a huge mistake that can make us miserable and harm our relationships.
The truth is we don’t know everything about someone. We don’t know the depth of the feelings, emotions, and thoughts they are dealing with. All of us have thoughts that we never share. So much of what goes on inside ourselves is unknown to others (even when we talk a lot).
We generally don’t know people as well as we think we do.
I don’t say this to make you feel disconnected from people (particularly your loved ones). This is more about pointing out that there is much more to people than what they share or show on the outside.
We are all complex individuals, who view our experiences through different lenses, so even though you might know someone incredibly well don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what they are thinking all the time.
I experienced this exact situation recently. My Mum said something to me about how she had been feeling and it was completely unexpected. I talk to my Mum every day and thought I knew how she was feeling but in fact, she was feeling something completely different. She was feeling something that I thought she would never feel.
No matter how well you know someone, you don’t know what they are thinking so it’s best to not assume that you do.
Interacting with other people
Your relationships are an important part of your life. Improving your interactions with other people results in better relationships. Making people feel nurtured, supported, and cared for will go a long way in improving your interactions with them. Improve your interactions – improve your life!
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