You know how to communicate—but do you know how to connect? And you know how to speak—but are you sure you’re listening, and giving others a reason to listen to you?

These might seem like rudimentary skills, but in our age of social media and smartphones, they’re practically endangered! We communicate all the time, and many of us mistake that for connecting. In truth, connecting with people requires a specific set of skills, skills you have to work on and nurture all the time.

Learning how to connect with people requires that you first let go of all the small mistakes that are preventing you from making better connections. Four of the biggest mistakes people make as they try to connect with others include:

  1. Trying to connect when you don’t have the time for it. If you’re in the middle of a thousand other things at work and you simply can’t give your full attention to another human, well, don’t. There is nothing wrong with asking to reconvene in five or ten minutes, once you’ve gotten your other affairs under control. This is far better than trying to connect when you simply don’t have the brain capacity for it!
  2. Not actually listening. Listening to someone requires more than just hearing the words they speak. It means taking the time to stop and think about what they mean. What are their underlying emotions? What are the needs they’re bringing to the conversation? Key into facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language as well as word choice, and focus on understanding at a deeper level.
  3. Ignoring your gut. In the minds of many business professionals, brains are everything; instincts are nothing. In reality, though, you should listen to your gut feelings, which may clue you into issues or complexities that your mind can’t yet wrap itself around. If something about a connection feels off to you, there’s probably something to that, and you may want to stop and reassess.
  4. Not giving yourself some space. One way to connect better with people is to connect better with yourself—giving yourself a little bit of quiet “me” time each and every day. It may be as simple as a few moments of meditation and self-affirmation at the start of each day, or maybe time during a workout—but make sure you don’t force yourself to connect with people all day, every day.

Connecting with people is essential for, well, almost everything—for leadership, for sales, and for teambuilding, to name just three. These are skills worth working on, then.

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