The most called-upon prerequisite of a friend is an accessible ear.
Who of your girlfriends is a good listener? Want to be a better friend? Listen!
You probably can pick out the friend(s) who listen well. They’re the girlfriends you call when you have updates – happy or not. They’re the friends who remember what you were worried about and ask you about it later. And, they’re the fabulous females who give you perfect girlfriend gifts – because they listened to the hints you might have been dropping!
Listening is a key component to any friendship or relationship. It’s taking an active role in conversations by asking questions, probing and sometimes just quietly noting your words and thoughts. It’s so vital to friendships that I thought it would be good to possibly ‘touch up’ our listening skills so we can be a better friend. Here are Six Ways to be a Better Listener and enhance your friendships:
- Give full attention to your friend when she’s talking – Don’t text, surf the internet or check your email. Don’t watch TV, make dinner or fold clothes. Sit where you can make eye contact. Focus on her eyes and facial expressions. Remind yourself, if needed, that you must stay alert and actively listening. My eyesight plays a role here. I’m near-sighted so I take off my glasses so I really can’t see a lot of details behind her. It helps me focus on just my friend. Try to blur out the background people and sounds to actively and attentively focus on her words, emotions and how she’s expressing herself.
- Don’t think ahead of your response – Listen intently and wait for her to finish her thoughts. If you think ahead of what to say, you often can lead the conversation in the direction YOU think it should go, instead of where she may need it to lead. Don’t prepare your reply before she is finished sharing. Let her finish what she has to say and then give yourself time to weigh her comments and her goals before responding.
- Listen to what she’s saying and what she’s not saying – Girlfriends turn to us, often instead of family or partners, to share their concerns and celebrations with. Why? Because we ‘get’ each other. We understand where we’re coming from and what our hopes and dreams are. Listen to what she’s saying and the phrasing she’s using. It is in her language or perhaps is she copying the tone and take that others in her life might have lead her to believe should be what she’s thinking? Listen to to what she’s not saying. Is she choosing to avoid angles on the story/problem that she’s sharing to divert the attention away from tough conversations you might need to have? You know her hopes and dreams? Are they impacting her take on the conversation and concern? Listen and watch for her nonverbal communication, aka: body language. Is she tense and crossing her arms? Is her face showing tension and stress? Identify what’s going on by what she’s saying and what she’s not saying. Respond based on the whole expression.
- Ask questions – Make sure you understand the complete situation. Clarify any uncertainties about how she feels and what impact this conversation/topic has on her life and goals. If you can, get her to express her feelings and why she is responding the way she is. And, ask questions, then let her answer. Don’t assume you know how she’s feeling and why this is so important to her.
- Stay attentive – Keep eye contact and stay alert. Don’t yawn (God forbid!) or show signs of fading interest. Be a better friend than that! Keep in mind that she will/would do the same for you, so listen and pay attention to what she’s saying and feeling. Clarify what they’re saying – perhaps asking, “So, what I hear is that you …” or “how did that make you feel?” type questions.
- If you’re having a difficult time listening – Take notes. Repeat in your mind what she’s saying. Pick up on key words or phrases – and what do they mean? Acknowledge that you’re listening – with your body language, with brief comments or questions. Keep a posture that shows and helps you listen – like sitting forward or leaning in their direction. If something is distracting you, remove it. (Turn off the TV, move away from your computer and put away your phone.)
Next time you’re sharing something very important to you, notice how your friend responds. Does she employ other listening techniques that you can learn from? Or, does she not listen as well as you’d like, and how can you learn from that experience?
Listening is vital to friendships. And, we’re here to be a better friend for our girlfriends and that means being a better listener.
What are your tips for being a better friend and a better listener?
We’ll talk more in another Girlfriendology blog about how to respond to difficult conversations. Feel free to give your ‘girlfriend advice’ in that scenario as well!
Here are some more Girlfriendology blog posts on how to be a better friend:
- Creatively dream with your girlfriends – help each other go after your dreams
- Be a better friend – to a friend with cancer
- Be a better friend – to a friend who has lost a parent