Frequently, other people are talking about a topic that we honestly are not that interested in. When we do not show interest though, there can be relationship consequences.

These consequences may include the following: the other person may become upset with us; the other person may not listen to us when we are discussing a topic we’re interested in; or the other person may decide not to 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 these and other unpleasant 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).

It’s pretty easy to show interest in a topic when it’s genuine. The words almost flow right out of us. Showing interest when you are not interested, however, can be pretty difficult. That’s why it is recommended to use rules that are easy to remember and follow.

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 moment. Here are some simple steps to help you have a short conversation that shows 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!” Her (or his) voice is high-pitched and she is smiling.

Step One

Determine what she is feeling. Try to see her non-verbal cues to help you on this one. Is she smiling? This is typically an indicator that the other person is happy or excited.

Is her face flat and not moving much? This may be telling you she is sad.

Do her eyebrows scrunch down? This could be her sign that she is upset or angry.

Also, pay attention to her tone. Is her voice high pitched? Maybe she’s excited. Is it pressured through clenched teeth? She may be upset. Is her voice low and slow? This could mean she is sad.

If you’re not quite sure how she is feeling, you can also mirror back her expressions to match her feelings. For example, if she is smiling try smiling back. Now that we’ve identified how she feels about what she just said we can move onto STEP 2.

Step Two

Now we use the emotion we just identified and give an emotionally reflective response. This means we are reflecting back his emotion to him in a statement. For this example we can identify he is excited because of his high(er) pitched voice and smile. We can mirror that back with a statement like, “I’m so happy for you” or “How exciting!” He would then be likely to respond with a thank you or talk a little more about his excitement.

Step Three

This is when we ask one or two follow up questions about the information she has 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 she said and allowing her an opportunity to talk about her news.

People love to talk about themselves or something they are interested in. You may ask, “What is the new job?” or “How is the move going?” This shows interest because you are actively trying to find out more about what she is talking about.

Step Four

This is when you can close the conversation politely to continue on with 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. 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!

  • STEP 1: What is the other person feeling?
  • STEP 2: Give an emotionally reflective response.
  • STEP 3: Ask one or two questions about it.
  • STEP 4: Close with an emotionally reflective statement.

Like everything in life this will take time and practice. So find family members, friends, or a 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. Using it regularly will help make it feel more natural.