Become a good friend and a good listener
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’re lost.” — Dalai Lama
Because of the current social distancing, we speak on the phone, and we meet in various internet panels, we do face time. Our nonverbal clues become limited for not seeing each other in ‘flesh’; therefore, now more than ever, we need good listening skills.
Are you gregarious and outgoing — a real extrovert? You have many wonderful qualities, but listening well may not be one of them. It’s tough to listen when you’re the one who does most of the talking.
However, most often, your friend does not want your advice; they just want you to LISTEN to THEIR story. People want to vent and just looking for someone to listen. Just be present at the moment and listen fully to what the other person has to say and let him or her speak until the entire message is said. Sometimes that is also all that’s needed. Help them get all that anger and frustration out into the open, where they can start to make sense of it on their own. Give people the power to solve their problems. Respect that. People themselves are the ones who know best what works for them. Trust that they already are working very hard to find the right avenue out of the dilemma.
The good listener need these skills
A true listener gives full attention to the person talking. When she is talking, she is trusting you and being vulnerable with you. Let the person be upset, angry, frustrated, raging, let the person be illogical. At the same time, give gentle cues that you are fully listening, such as nodding or shaking your head. Make suitable non-word noises such as ‘mmm, uhhuh’. Occasionally repeat back an important word that they just said. If there is a pause, do not rush in to fill the silence, it is important to wait. The person is reorganising their thoughts. After a while, you can help the person go deeper by saying ‘go on’ or asking what are you really worried about?’ Validate how they are feeling by reflecting it back. Try not to ‘band-aid’ the hurt, validate it. If the person starts to cry, do not rush with the tissues to stop the crying, let the tears flow, they are healing. Try not to fix the problem. Additionally, they do not want to hear about your experience in a similar situation just then. Even if you think that your telling of ‘you should or should not have done this’ is important, it will not be helpful and can be harmful.
After they have talked enough and there is a sign that they have finished, you can gently ask ‘what I could do for you? Do you need help? What kind of help? Are you looking for advice?’ Only give feedback and advice when you are invited to do so. When you are offering help do it only if you actually genuinely are able and willing to help.