I hope you’re having a great week so far! A while back, I had a particularly heartfelt conversation with one of my dear and long-time friends. Afterward, she shared how she really felt seen and heard by how I had shown up for our talk. She encouraged me to write a post about how to engage people in conversation and make them feel special and important. I was honored she felt this way! To be honest, I’d never stopped to think about the way I show up for conversations or to acknowledge it as a gift. It’s interesting how we each possess certain qualities that come naturally to us that are actually some of our greatest gifts.
I’ve always loved people and found them to be fascinating and interesting. I’ve also always been an encourager. I was the kid who left positive notes on my mom’s co-workers’ desks and in my friend’s lockers. Pair my people-fascination with the fact I’m a naturally curious person and conversations tend to flow. Most people enjoy when you ask them personal questions. I have a ton of empathy for others and creating a harmonious atmosphere has always been important to me, so I tend to think in terms of how my words will impact the person I’m talking to. I share all of this because I believe the combination of these qualities have played a major role in how I engage with others.
Here’s what’s been true for me—Deep, meaningful conversations happen when you:
- Look someone in the eye (thank you to my gymnastics coach, Frank Kudlac, for ingraining this habit in me)
- Give them your undivided attention
- Listen without thinking about what you are going to say next, and instead listen to understand
- Ask engaging, open-ended questions (think questions that start with the words why and how)
- Avoid close-ended questions (starting with did and can, which may result in one-word answers)
Keeping the above in mind has taken me far in building trust and connecting with others. It helps when you genuinely care about the person and not what the person can do for you.
Two public figures I’ve seen who model these qualities so well are John Maxwell and Oprah Winfrey. I’ve had the privilege of meeting John several times. John has the ability to remember names, faces, and people’s stories. I was blown away a few years ago when meeting John for a second time because he remembered my name and that my late husband, Andrew, was a pastor. He engaged me with open-ended questions about Andrew, which made me feel seen and cared for.
When I was in college, I had the honor of performing as a Baylor cheerleader on the Oprah show. Although I never got the opportunity to shake Oprah’s hand (one day!), I’ve always been inspired by her ability to connect with people. On her final show she shared her secret sauce for making people feel important. I share what she said in its entirety so it retains it maximum value. She said:
“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through the television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you.’
“Understanding that one principle, that everybody wants to be heard, has allowed me to hold the microphone for you all these years with the least amount of judgement. Now I can’t say I wasn’t judging some days. Some days, I had to judge just a little bit. But it’s helped me to stand and to try to do that with an open mind and to do it with an open heart. It has worked for this platform, and I guarantee you it will work for yours. Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.”‘ (http://unisonconsulting.com/2011/06/28/oprahs-lesson-6/)
I’d love to hear your thoughts… What is something you do to make someone feel seen, heard and important? Can’t wait to read your comments.
Well, I’m about to jump on a plane to Philadelphia to speak at a Keller Williams regional cultural summit! Thank you for making my blog part of your day. I hope it lifts you up and inspires you to continue to grow! Grateful for you. Blessings.
PS – Thank you to the Flower Mound Keller Williams office for having me speak yesterday at your kick-off event! What an amazing group of people! I enjoyed getting to share my message with you and I appreciate all of the love and encouragement you’ve shared with me!
PPS – Want to motivate, inspire, and encourage a group, company, or church you are a part of? My message is about “transforming life’s greatest challenges into a purposeful life” and I’d love to come share it! Email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org to book me as your speaker.
PPPS – If you’re looking for a meaningful gift to share with those you love, please check out my late husband, Andrew’s, book, The Ellie Project! This book is truly for all ages. His drawings are simple and children love them, but his words are powerful and wise enough to carry us all through this life, no matter what our age. Get your signed copy at www.ellieproject.com.