TO BE CLOSER to people, you'll need to
become a good listener. To listen well, the main requirement
is to be sincerely interested in the other person. So the question
is, "How can you become sincerely interested in someone?"
As strange as that might sound, it's not that hard.
Put yourself in the other's place. Imagine
you were her. What would it be like to be her? What would you
feel? What might you be thinking? Do this first, and questions
start coming easily.
Normally, I wouldn't care about the plants
in someone's yard. But I was talking to a man yesterday who told
me he had taken three truck loads of organic matter out of his
back yard. He said he needed to do that before he could start
planning how to plant his yard. He just bought his house a little
I imagined what that would be like. "That
must be fun to have created a kind of blank canvas. Do you know
what you're going to plant? Do you have it all planned out?"
As I imagined what it was like for him, I found I was
more interested, more curious sincerely than I
The way to connect, to cultivate closeness,
is to be curious about the person open and curious and
interested. People open up when you like them and are interested
in finding out about them. And the way to be curious is to imagine
what that person may be feeling. Keep in mind your purpose for talking.
Be interested, curious, and pay special
attention to feelings. When someone utters an expression of feelings,
do not bypass it. Give it attention. An expression of feelings
is the ore you are mining for. Explore those feelings the same
way. What did he feel? Why did he feel that way?
Imagine what it's like to be the person.
When he tells you about something that happened to him, imagine
it happened to you. How would you feel? And then express
that. "That must have hurt your feelings." Or, "I
think I would have been very relieved." Don't tell him what
he felt, but open it up, invite him to talk about it.
This is another way to bring out feelings and pay special attention
to them. Make it clear you want to hear him talk.
CONVERSATION ABOUT ATTENTION
"Okay, cultivate affection,"
Jim said, "and how do you do that? I mean, what do you do
to cultivate affection?"
"I love that question," said
Ellen, "and the answer is: Give people your attention."
"All right," Jim said, not looking
at all satisfied, "give them my attention. Then what?"
"You really wouldn't have to go much
further than that," said Ellen. "If you gave people
your attention, you'd have about eighty percent of it. But I
don't mean looking like you're giving your attention.
I mean actually paying attention to the person you're
talking with. Your attention is your most valuable possession
and it is a great gift to give to someone."
Jim still didn't look satisfied. "That
doesn't sound very concrete. It's not much of an action."
"Okay, okay. More concrete."
Ellen thinks for a minute, then says, "Here's what to do:
When you see someone, notice them and say hello. If you have
a chance to exchange a few words, express an interest in them
not merely appearing to be interested, but think
of something you'd really like to know about them that they would
enjoy telling you about and really listen, without looking at
your watch or looking anywhere but at the person, and without
being distracted by other things you need to do."
"So it isn't so simple."
"It really is simple. All you're doing
is making it easy to give your attention to someone. If you ask
them about their bunions and you care nothing about bunions,
it is difficult to pay attention to them while they're talking."
"Yeah, too boring."
"Exactly. So the question to ask yourself
is, 'What interests me about this person?'"
Jim is only looking at what's wrong here,
and not using his imagination at all, so he says, "What
if I don't know the person very well? How would I know what would
interest me about them?"
Ellen looked genuinely pleased by the question.
"Then you'd need to find out, right? So you're already off
and running. You have an interest right away you want
to find out what is interesting to you about this person.
Your curiosity pulls your attention. Curiosity and interest naturally
and effortlessly capture your attention."
"Let me get this straight," said
Jim. "If I want to cultivate affection with you, for example,
I need to give you my attention."
"All right, I've got that. And then
to give you my attention, I have to find out what I think is
interesting about you."
"Well, no. You don't have to
be interested. That's just the easiest way. You can force
yourself to pay attention to something you're not interested
in, but it isn't much fun and it takes a lot of effort."
"So that's the easy way,"
Jim repeats. "Okay, so I simply try to discover what is
interesting about you. What if there isn't anything?"
"Then you keep seeking. That itself
is curiosity. So keep looking. I haven't yet found anyone without
several interesting thoughts and points of view or experiences
or knowledge or dreams or whatever. People are interesting, but
sometimes you have to dig. They don't put it right out there.
A lot of people are interested in stuff they don't think others
would be interested in, so they keep it to themselves. But when
they find someone who draws it out of them, they'll pour their
heart out and feel privileged to have found someone who gave
their attention. And what do you know? You've cultivated some
Find out what is interesting
to you about
the person you're talking with.