How to be a better listener by Natalie
I’m normally the one doing all the talking. But, today I’m going to practice being a better listener. So, what does it mean to be a good listener?
If a friend come to you with a problem, it’s probably best to be a good listener rather than just give your opinion. It’s important to listen and be present when listening too.
Here’s some thoughts on what makes a good listener.
Make sure you are present
It’s the worst when I just want to talk to my friend and I can tell they are distracted. At the same time, I can’t fully think when I’m distracted with checking emails, text messages, or have something on my mind. If someone has something important to say, stop what you are doing, take a deep breath and open your ears and mind to them.
This skill is sometimes a bit difficult. Your friend has something to say and it’s their turn to speak. Your job to listen. Don’t right off the bat give advice and your opinion, get the full picture of the problem or situation and then decide to speak.
When you are just listening you will probably not talk as much. Listen more that you speak is the best rule. And, when you do speak make it valuable information.
Wait, why am I talking?
Think about this question before you decide to talk. What is your reason for talking? If it’s just to be heard, then this may not be the appropriate time to speak. Or if it’s an argument, maybe you are angry and feel like you need to respond. Wait, cool down and then consider talking.
Be supportive and encouraging
If your friend comes to you and says they want to stop drinking alcohol, show your support for them.
If you are a true friend, you will support and encourage your friend in their decision.
I’m not saying all decisions made are for the positive, but take the time to listen to where your friend is coming from. You may not see the reason for your friend’s decision. Take time to listen and ask questions if you need to. Take more time to listen and understand where they are coming from. Even a statement like, I I don’t agree with what you’re doing but I definitely will support you through that, would be something to say.
So, what is empathy? It’s the ability to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings. There’s a great article on Casper that explains more about empathy. Click here to read it. Imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes is another way to empathize with them.
Let’s say a friend has opened up and let you know they have been feeling depressed. If you empathize with them, you can understand how they feel. You will take the time to understand depression and take the time to help them. The opposite would be to make a statement like, “Well can’t you just take medicine?” That’s not being understanding.
Acknowledge what they are saying
It’s the worst when you’re talking to someone and they keep saying uh-huh uh-huh, uh-huh uh-huh and you think to yourself, “are they really listening to what I’m saying.” To be a good listener acknowledge what the other person is saying. You may show body language like leaning in or not in your head or even sometimes repeating what they said to make sure you understand where they are coming from.
Offer advice and input
After your friend has talked for a while and you understand more where they’re coming from, this may be the right time to offer your advice and input. Sometimes I like to ask my friend, “hey, do you mind if I give you information on how I’m feeling”or “would you mind if I gave you some of my advice.” Sometimes people just want to be heard and many times they don’t necessarily want advice
Make time for the 2 of you
I had planned to meet a friend for coffee. A few days before we were going to meet she asked if one of her other friends could join us. I had really wanted to have time just the two of us - to girl talk and not have to explain myself again. I actually called off our coffee date. I was looking forward to just some one on one time - not shared time.
Sometimes opening up is something you only want to do with certain people. I didn’t feel like sharing with the world.
Also, your conversations should probably be private - keep the words exchanged between the two of you. Don’t go home and blab to your significant other about the situation your friend is going through.
Ask how you can support your friend or what they need from you. Show that you want to be there for them.
For extra points, follow up in a few days to see how they are doing. One of my dear friends does a great job of checking on me each week. I'm lucky to have her support.
Hope these tips help you to be a better listener!
Hope this tips help you to be a better listener.