Good listening skills matter in all relationships, but how you talk to and listen to your friends can make the difference between a casual connection and a lasting friendship.
Elizabeth Scott, a family therapist and author of the book “8 Keys to Stress Management,” notes that there are five basic steps to improving your listening skills with a friend in need.
Listen to the answers
Often when people say “How are you?” they don’t really listen to the answer. Maintain eye contact with your friend, stay present and show them “you’re interested in what they have to say,” she writes.
Repeat what you hear
Ms. Scott notes that when we summarise and repeat thoughts back to someone, they know we are hearing them. “It looks like things are getting pretty hostile” and “You sound like you’re feeling hurt” are two examples of things you might say when your friend is sharing about a difficult conflict.
What are you feeling?
Don’t know what to say? Ask your friend what they are feeling rather than discussing the details of the situation, writes Ms. Scott. Keep the focus on them. While it’s fine to say you can relate or to share a few details about your own experience, don’t shift the focus of the conversation to your situation and feelings.
Rather than jumping in with advice, guide your friend in a brainstorming session to find solutions. For example, you can ask: What do you want to do about this? How does that make you feel? Do you see any other options?
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