It might seem counterintuitive, but personal connections with people start when you stop talking and when you start listening. It's the secret ingredient to all relationships.

Yet, the concept of "listening" has more to do with your attitude than your ears.

One reason is that so many of us are always talking, posting on social media, sharing information, texting out what we need and what we want.

It's a firehose--and we're spraying everyone around us.

The truth is, connections with other people, your coworkers, and even family and friends don't happen when the conversation is only going in one direction. And, it's human nature to shut down a little when someone keeps sending signals instead of listening for them.

Curiously, this is also true of your body language. You might be communicating your thoughts and ideas by your hand gestures, facial expressions, and even your eyebrows.

Sometimes, what you're communicating is--you're not paying attention.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Sometimes, the best way to connect with others is to listen to what they are saying but also to receive their body language signals. We are all sending them, every minute of the day, but if you're too busy sending them, you won't really connect. You won't see how others are trying to reach you at the same time.

I've seen how this plays out in the workplace.

You can spot someone who is not connecting well with others--on their phone, distracted, thinking about their schedule, talking all of the time. Imagine a car that is racing down the road, not aware of the traffic, the scenic view out the window, the plane flying overhead. We're speeding along but we're also unaware of what's around us. We're communicating our needs and our desires, yet we can't seem to accept the needs and desires of others.

And that creates a failure of connection.

Another way of thinking about that is: Have you ever gone through a stressful situation in life and found that every conversation, interaction, and encounter seems slightly out of tune? You're looking inward, trying to deal with the stress. You're not looking outward.

One of the ways to deal with that stress is to stop making it all about you.

Somehow, in some way, the stress tends to lift when we focus on others. I think I know why. That constant inward focus means we're not really connecting with anyone.

Our emotions are all insular, we're on an island by ourselves. When we look outward, suddenly the stress is more bearable.

Having poor connections in relationships can cause even more stress.

Sometimes it takes a group effort (more than just you, but everyone around you) to resolve stressful situations and circumstances. Choose to involve others, listen to what they say, read their body language...and turn off the firehose.

Published on: Oct 24, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.