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4 Steps to Appearing Interested…Even when you’re Not
By: Jennifer Artesani, M.Ed, LMHC
February 5, 2017
4 Steps to Appearing Interested…Even when you’re Not
Often times others are talking about something that we honestly are not that interested in. Appearing interested even when you are not is actually important. When we do not show interest though, there can be relationship consequences. These consequences may be the following: the other person may become upset with us, the other person may not listen to us when we are discussing a topic of interest to us, or the other person may decide to not maintain a relationship with us. You may ask yourself “but why should I pretend to be interested or care when I don’t care?” The answer is to avoid those consequences. Try not to think of it as lying about being interested but rather you are showing you care about that person by showing interest even when you are not. Not all conversations will be on topics we enjoy but if we let others have their topics we will likely gain a friend to listen to our topics as well (even if it is not their topic of choice). This article will give you Four Steps to appearing interested in a conversation even when you’re not.
It’s pretty easy to show interest in a topic when we are interested in. The words almost flow right out of us sometimes. Appearing interested when you are not interested though can be pretty difficult. That’s why it is recommended to use rules that are easy to remember and follow to help us. Let’s pretend you are out food shopping and someone you know sees you and says “hi”. You may not be too interested in having a conversation at that time so we can go over some simple steps to help you have a short conversation with them that shows them you’re interested while allowing you to easily wrap it up. Let’s get started. The person excitedly tells you “I just got a new job in Nashville so I’ll be moving next month!” They’re voice is high pitched and they are smiling.
FIRST STEP is to determine what they are feeling. Try to see their non-verbal cues to help you on this one. Are they smiling? This is typically an indicator that they are happy or excited. Is their face flat and not moving much? This may be telling you they are sad. Do their eye brows scrunch down? This could be their sign that they are upset or angry. Also, pay attention to their tone. Is their voice high pitched? Maybe they’re excited. Is it pressured through clenched teeth? They may be upset. Is their voice low and slow? This could mean they are sad. If you’re not quite sure how they are feeling you can also mirror back their expressions to match their feelings. For example, if they are smiling try smiling back. Now that we’ve identified how they feel about what they just said we can move onto STEP 2.
STEP 2 is when we use the emotion we just identified and give an emotionally reflective response. This means we are reflecting back their emotion to them in a statement. For this example we can identify they are excited because of their high pitched voice and smile. We can mirror that back with a statement like “I’m so happy for you” or “How exciting!”. They would then be likely to respond with a thank-you or talk a little more about their excitement.
Then we would move on to STEP 3. This is when we ask 1-2 follow up questions about the information they have just given us. This shows we are interested (even if we are not) because we are taking a moment to find out more about what they said and allowing them an opportunity to talk about their news. People love to talk about themselves or something they are interested in. You may ask “What is the job?” or “How is the move going?” This shows interest because you are actively trying to find out more about what they are talking about.
Lastly there is STEP 4. This is when you can close the conversation politely to continue about your day. For this step you want to use a reflective statement again (just like STEP 2) except this time you will also add a closing statement. For this example you may say something like “Well I’m really happy for you. I’ve got to get going but let me know if you need any help or want to celebrate later”. You have now politely ended the conversation. Also by offering help or to celebrate later you have given yourself an opportunity to see this person again.
Since this article is all about having a simple step process to follow let’s make it simple! Here are the 4 Steps to appearing interested:
FIRST STEP : What is the other person feeling?
SECOND STEP : Give an emotionally reflective response.
THIRD STEP : Ask 1-2 questions about it.
FOURTH STEP : Close with an emotionally reflective statement.
Like everything in life this will take some time and practice. So find a family member, friend, or therapist and ask them if you can try this out on them. It will give you a good opportunity to practice. It may seem difficult at first but practice will make it easier. The more you practice the 4 steps of appearing interested even when you’re not the easier and more natural it will seem. Using it regularly will help make it feel more natural eventually.