With our existence becoming more and more virtual these days, and more communication becoming text and emojis, we sometimes lose the context of a conversation. It can be easy to misconstrue the meaning and lose our connection with the other person.
This can go the same way in face-to-face conversations too. With our time being more and more limited, and more demands on our attention from the beeping devices in our pockets, it is not hard to see why. We can seem uncaring and self-absorbed when we turn our attention to our phones instead of the person in front of us.
Personally, I can be quite ‘Type A’ and impatient. So I know from experience that it is easy to offend friends and come across uncaring when we are busy or anxious about work and other time-pressures.
When I trained as a life coach I learned some simple ways to re-engage a conversation partner who feels disconnected. Here are six responses to re-engage someone and show that you are with them. These can be very useful if the other person is emotional or stressed out.
1. Tell me more about that
A simple opener to keep the conversation going. This gives the person permission to explain more and confirms that you are interested.
2. I want to understand
If they are hesitant about sharing, or doubt that you care, this simply tells them that you are there. Just make sure you tell it sincerely. Otherwise, you will make the situation even worse.
3. Maybe I misunderstood; try me again?
When you really do not get what they are upset about, but they seem to be upset with you. And they might be, so find out now and show them you are listening.
4. Where does that leave you?
You know when someone off-loads a load of grief onto you, then expects you to understand why they are mad, but you do not see it their way? This is a perfect response.
For example, if they have described in detail an injustice, but you can see the other side of the argument, and perhaps you do not want to take sides. Instead of nodding along awkwardly, just ask them what the outcome is for them.
5. I am sorry, I totally missed the point
When you have missed the point, or failed to understand why someone is mad at you. This is great if you had seemed uncaring to them. You are admitting that you did not get it, but not that you did not care. Now put down your phone and really listen to your conversation partner.
6. I am listening
Just a simple reassurance that you are there for someone. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one. Just show them that you are really listening.
7. Never respond, “I am sorry you feel that way”
There is also a classic response to avoid, particularly when the conversation is about something that you were partly responsible for. I am sorry you feel that way. Ugh! Whether you mean it to sound passive-aggressive or not, it is almost always perceived that way.
“I am sorry YOU feel that way,” puts the responsibility firmly back at their feet and can definitely seem uncaring to say the least. All things considered it is a great way to ruin an apology.
Just keep it simple. “I am sorry” will suffice. And most importantly, if you are physically with the person, put your phone away and make eye contact. Even with all the technology we have today, there is no substitute for genuine human connection.