(image from pixabay)
Do you know what it means to really listen to your friends? To really hear and engage with what they are saying? Do you know the impact this can have on your relationships?
I remember in primary school one of my friend's said to me "your really good at listening." I can't remember the context of the moment - I have an image in my head, a memory, of sitting with my friend and patting her back, and just listening as she poured her heart out. And whilst I definitely have my moments of chatter and word vomiting (you know, literally not being able to shut up), most of the time I just listen..... respond if needed.... then listen some more. I personally find it easier to listen to people and engage on that level, than letting conversation fly about in a superficial way. (Disclaimer: there will always be need for lighter, superficial conversation, but it is not for all conversation). Listening is a skill that you have to develop, especially when wanting to build good, solid relationships with people.
Normal communication in friendships can involve interruptions, misinterpretations, and miscommunications - all things that could derail friendships. One way to ensure your friendships aren't derailed by any of these things is to develop your listening skills by engaging in active listening.
Active listening involves these aspects:
1. Getting rid of distractions - put your phone down, close your laptop up, turn the music down, and engage completely with what the other person is saying. (I'm no saint with this, but I do actively try to put my phone down and close my laptop if I know the conversation is serious).
2. Be mindful and conscious of what is really being said - don't just listen to the words, hear the expression, observe the body language, look into the person's eyes.
3. Don't leap to conclusions (this one I have to work on!) - quite often we go into a conversation thinking we already know what the person is going to say, and instead of hearing what they have really said, we twist the words or expressions to fit out own biases and expectations. Park your preconceived notions at the door, and open your mind.
4. Only give advice if it is asked for - this can be a hard one fore everyone, especially as we often feel that we can save people from making mistakes etc if we offer advice. Often advice isn't what is being sought, a simple shoulder to cry on, or an ear to vent too is needed. Just listen, with no judgement.
On the flip side of listening in friendships is opening oneself up to friends and letting them into your joys and fears. People will open up to you if you open up to them.... this can be hard, but try it, and see how your relationships change and develop, hopefully for the better.