How Do People Respond to You?

We can learn a lot by observing how the people around us respond when we talk with them. If they seem interested and engaged, it is a sign that your communication style is healthy and effective. On the other hand, if they look away, become silent, look down at the floor, and seem generally bored, it may say more about the way you are communicating than about their attention span or lack of respect. And, if several people respond to you in similarly disinterested ways, it’s time to pay attention to how you are generating disinterest in what you are saying.

First, notice your tone of voice. Is it harsh, critical, or demanding? Think about how you might soften your tone, so that you don’t come across as “attacking” your listeners.

Second, notice your choice of words. For example, instead of saying, “I see you finally emptied the garbage,” you might say, “You emptied the garbage. Thank you!” That word “finally” contains an indictment — that he/she failed to empty the garbage when you wanted it done. Watch for other words you may use that turn seemingly innocent statements into veiled criticism.

Third, notice your body language. Do you yourself multi-task while you talk, rather than establishing eye contact? Do you stand with your arms folded or hands on your hips? What facial expression do you display — is it a frown or a scowl, or is it neutral or pleasant?

Finally, notice whether you tend to dominate conversations, making them all about you and yours. Do you express interest in the other person’s experiences, family, opinions, or is it a running monologue on your part? Do you talk on and on, barely taking a breath, so that the other person can barely get a word in edgewise, or do you pause between thoughts to allow space for the other to interject their own thoughts?

If you have been unhappy with the way others respond to you when you talk with them, use the questions above to do a self-assessment. If you change your style of communicating, you may generate more interest in what you say.

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