Stop and Listen

Photo by Peter Kaminski from Flickr


When friends or family members approach us with a problem they are facing, one of our first reactions is to start talking right away. We either start spitting out phrases of love and support or we start giving advice. Although this is a common reaction coming from a good place inside ourselves, it’s not always the appropriate reaction. We need to stop and listen to our loved ones.

When someone comes to us with a problem, our first instinct is to make the person feel better right away with a loving or supportive comment. While this seems like the correct thing to do, we do not realize we’re not listening completely. The wheels in our brain are turning to find the right thing to say instead of listening to every word and emotion our friend is expressing.

One good way to start being a better listener is to eliminate all distractions while a friend confides in you. Choose a quite setting such as a living room or dining room. Make sure the TV is completely off along with other electronics. Turn your phone on silent and allow no extra guests or pets in the room. Be sure to face your friend and make eye contact unless that makes him or her uncomfortable.

Sometimes, our body language can mean more than our words. Feed off the energy your friends present and let your actions follow respectively. Lean in to show you’re listening if you’re loved one is speaking softly. Pat the back of their hand if they seem hesitant to share their feelings. Showing your loved ones that they have your undivided attention means more than saying they have your undivided attention.

Remain calm by taking deep breaths and focusing on the person. Sometimes our loved ones can drop a bombshell on us and our mind races into panic mode. When that happens, our thoughts become hazy and the loved one no longer has our undivided attention. If bad news breaks, repeat in your head, “I’ll worry about that later—what is my friend saying right now?” Having this calming presence will help your loved ones feel safe and composed.

Listening is a skill that takes much practice. Having a busy agenda can make people forget how to listen effectively. Remember to practice this skill with the people in your life in everyday situations. Ask friends to tell you about their weekend. Do not speak until they are completely finished, and then see what all you can repeat back. This fun exercise can help sharpen your listening skills and prepare you for when listening matters the most.

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