How to Act Like You Care

Three Parts:Demonstrating Active ListeningImproving Your ConversationsBeing More Caring in Your Relationships

At some point, you have probably encountered a situation in which someone wants to talk to you, and you just aren't very interested. Sometimes, it's important to be polite and act interested to avoid hurting someone's feelings or to maintain an important relationship. Acting like you are interested in the topic is really just a matter of showing that you're listening. If you find this happening often, however, you may wish to re-evaluate the relationship, or at least try establish a different conversational style that is more fulfilling

Part 1
Demonstrating Active Listening

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    Use non-verbal communication.. Active listening is a style of listening in which the listener demonstrates their attentiveness to the speaker.[1] There are many ways you can show attentiveness without speaking.
    • Maintaining eye contact is a common way of showing that you are listening.[2]
    • Nodding, smiling, and exhibiting a relaxed posture also suggest that you are listening attentively.[3]
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    Use encouraging words to show understanding. Active listeners often use short phrases to show that they understand and are paying attention.[4] Even if you aren't actually interested in the topic, these cues show you are listening politely.
    • Common phrases of encouragement include "Mmm hmm," "I see," "Right," and "Uh-huh."[5]
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    Repeat or paraphrase to show understanding. You can show someone you understand and are listening by repeating back to him or her what's been said, or paraphrasing what he or she has just told you.[6]
    • If you don't actually understand what you've just been told, you can also ask for clarification. This also sends the message that you are listening.
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    Politely end the conversation. When the opportunity presents itself, you will probably wish to either end the conversation or change the subject if you aren't actually interested in the topic.
    • Offer a reason for ending the conversation, such as a task you need to resume or a person you need to find[7]
    • If this is your first time talking to someone, you can also end a conversation with "It was nice meeting you."[8]
    • You can also tell the person that you really want to hear more about the topic of conversation and you'll call them tomorrow. Then follow through on your promise so that they know that you care.

Part 2
Improving Your Conversations

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    Think about why you aren't interested in listening. If you often find yourself pretending to be interested, this may be a sign that you should change the way you are interacting with others.
    • There are many reasons you might not be interested in listening. Sometimes you just aren't in the mood, and that's fine. Other circumstances, however, call for different responses. You might not understand the topic well. Or, you might not feel like your views are being heard. You may just have no interest in the topic. It could just be that the person talking thinks they know best and only wants to hear their own perspective.
    • Everyone finds themselves in the position of disinterested listener occasionally. However, constantly playing the role of an active listener isn't fulfilling and doesn't lay the groundwork for good conversations or satisfying relationships.[9]
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    Improve your understanding. Frequently, a person may lose interest in a conversation because he or she doesn't understand the topic well enough. In such a case, it might be worth asking for more explanation--you might be surprised to find you are interested!
    • Often, people who know a great deal about a topic will discuss it at a level of detail or specificity that is hard for others to understand. If you want to keep the conversation going, ask them to explain in simpler terms.[10]
    • For example, you may have a friend who is chemist. You may find science to be generally interesting, but every time it comes up, your friend starts using terms you don't understand or discussing the details of their experiments. You might find some common ground if you can convince your friend to talk in more general, accessible terms.
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    Express your views. Sometimes a conversation isn't interesting because you aren't conversing, you're just listening. If you don't mind the topic but aren't enjoying the conversation, try adding your own thoughts and perspectives more often.
    • Inserting your own views or feelings often improves conversation.[11]
    • As long as you aren't interrupting, sharing your thoughts on a topic can also show that you are really listening.[12]
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    Change the subject. Ultimately, the problem may be that you just aren't interested in a topic, even if you like the person talking. If you are willing to continue the conversation, but would rather talk about something mutually interesting, change the subject.
    • Look for a chance to use something the other person has said as a "bridge" to a new topic.[13]
    • For example, if someone is talking to you about music, but you are much more interested in movies, you might look for an opportunity to bring up a famous film soundtrack as a means of shifting the topic.
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    Change the relationship. The problem may actually be the person talking rather than the topic. If this is the case, you may need to try to work on your relationship with that person, or maybe even end the relationship.
    • For example, if someone you know only talks about themselves and never wants to listen to others, that person may be a narcissist. People like these can be very difficult to have conversations (or relationships) with.[14]
    • If the relationship is important to you, it may be worth talking to the other person about why you have a hard time conversing with them. If you and the other party care about each other, it may be possible to change the relationship in such a way that you want to listen and the other person wants to listen to you. Understanding the problem is the first step toward improving the relationship.[15]
    • If the relationship isn't important, it may just be that this is not someone you want to have conversations with. In such a case, it might be better to avoid contact rather than routinely having to pretend you are interested. While this can be hurtful, sometimes its for the best.[16]

Part 3
Being More Caring in Your Relationships

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    Take action. It's great to tell people you care about them and be a good listener, but as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If you want to show someone you care, do something nice for him or her.[17] Some examples of things you can do to show caring include:
    • Cooking someone a meal, or buying one at a restaurant.[18]
    • Giving a gift (even a very small one).
    • Making or buying them a card, even if there's no special occasion to buy a card for.[19]
    • Doing a chore like taking out the trash or washing their car, especially if it's a chore you know she or he particularly dislikes.[20]
    • Giving a hug.[21]
    • Think creatively! There are lots of ways to show you care. Remember that for many people, surprises are especially nice.[22]
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    Be genuine. There are many ways you can act like you care for someone who is important in your life. Caring acts will be most effective when you are being sincere, not just acting.[23]
    • Doing something nice for someone may not communicate caring if you do it just to appease or placate him or her. When you interact with others, be aware of your emotions and make sure the things you say and do come from a genuinely caring place.[24]
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    Consider what the other person likes. Keep in mind that the actions or words that might make you feel cared for may not communicate caring to someone else. Learning what makes your friends and loved ones feel good will help you express your caring.[25]
    • For example, you might enjoy being gently teased by someone you care about. Maybe your girlfriend or boyfriend has a pet name for you like "goon" or "doofus" that makes you both laugh. Keep in mind that some people find any kind of teasing hurtful.
    • Maybe there's a movie that really cheers you up that you watch with a close friend when you feel sad. That may work well for you, but showing up to your brother's house with a copy of the film after he's lost his job may seem weird or insensitive to him, rather than an act of caring.
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    Follow through. When you tell someone you are going to do something, do it. Be reliable and trustworthy.[26]
    • This is especially important when it comes to promises. For example, imagine you've told someone you will keep a very personal secret. It's very important that you don't tell anyone the private information, even if it seems harmless at the time.[27]
    • For more everyday commitments, like agreeing to pick up a gallon of milk or make some photocopies, try to remember to do these things without being reminded. This shows you are thinking about the other person.[28]
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    Be supportive. When a friend or loved one is going through hard times, you can show you care by being there for him or her. Spend time around the other person, and be a good listener. Even if you can't help with the problem, being there to listen shows you care.[29]
    • If a friend is having a life crisis, don't be afraid to tell him or her you care and are concerned. Check in regularly, offer support, and help him or her find professional help if necessary.[30]


  • Don't feel like you need always be the listener in a conversation. If you have strong feelings about a topic, speak up!
  • In social situations, if you are trying to end a conversation or change the subject and the other person isn't picking up on social cues, excuse yourself to go the restroom, and stay in there for a few minutes. By the time you come out, the conversation may have moved on. If not, you can use the interruption as an opportunity to bring up a new topic or start a conversation with someone else.[31]
  • Bringing other people into a conversation can also help change tone or topic, or at least introduce new perspectives.[32]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Language Nuances