Something interesting happened the other night when I was catching up with a friend.
I was feeling a bit down and started to talk to my friend about it. Considering this person often talks to me about their problems and I spend a lot of time listening to them, I thought I was confiding in the right person.
What actually happened was me briefly pouring my heart out, while my friend read her iPad. I use the word briefly because I stopped talking when it appeared she was either ignoring me or simply not interested in what I was saying.
The next day I noticed an update on my friend’s Facebook page stating what a lovely night she had spending time with me.
I was surprised to say the least.
While I was talking and consequently feeling ignored, she was busy updating her Facebook page about what a great time we were having.
As it turns out, not so much on my part.
The one thing I remember feeling was lonely, despite the fact one of my close friends was sitting in the chair opposite me.
If you want to have better relationships with your friends, for goodness’ sake people put down the technology.
I love my laptop as much as the next person but I don’t have it sitting on my lap when I am having a catch up with friends, so I can send out a quick tweet or check my work email (even if I am waiting on an important email to come through).
Instead I choose to respect the person I am talking to and listen to them.
Here are some tips on being a better listener.
- Be present. Be in the moment. Being in the room with someone is not enough, you have to pay attention.
- Don’t interrupt. I can be as guilty of this as the next person, but I am making an effort to improve. I’m sure you recognise this scenario. Someone is talking to you about something and it triggers a thought and instead of waiting, you blurt it out interrupting the other person. Usually it’s because we are excited by the conversation, other times we think we might forget something so out it comes.
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- Don’t just be planning what you are going to say next. Again many of us are guilty of this including me on occasion. This behaviour is often sparked by the conversation itself, we think of a reply to what the person is saying and continue to think about it, despite the fact the other person is still talking. If you are planning ahead, there is a good chance you are not fully listening.
- Planning ahead can be particularly harmful in conflict situations. If you are planning your words and not listening, there is a good chance you might miss hearing something important, which can affect your take on the conversation and completely screw up your response.
- Make sure you are not the one doing all of the talking. I mentioned this in an earlier post. If you are doing all of the talking, you need to be quiet and let the other person have a turn. There are exceptions to this naturally. If someone is grieving over a recent loss, it may be a good time to simply listen and comfort them. Sometimes being silent, yet completely in the moment with someone is what they truly need.
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- Avoid distractions. This is where all of the technology comes in. If you are having a one on one discussion, leave the phone alone. Big groups might have a different dynamic so sending a quick text isn’t as bad (assuming you aren’t supposed to be paying attention to a particular person at the time).
- Distractions can come in many different forms. I will admit, when I am catching up with people at home, I probably do spend a bit too much time fussing over my cat, since he can get a bit flighty when I have guests over and I don’t want him running off into harm’s way. Bearing that in mind, despite any fussing, I always make sure I come back to the person and give them my full attention.
- Ask questions if appropriate. Relevant questions demonstrate that you are listening and that you are engaged in the conversation. Questions show that you are interested. As mentioned earlier, not all conversations require questions, some might be better without them.
Related post – How to Have a Two Way Conversation
- Try not to be judgmental. This one really depends on the subject matter. Overall you should try to avoid making the other person feel judged, particularly if they are already vulnerable and upset. They are most likely talking to you because they feel they can trust you. Of course there are times when the tough questions need to be asked. Weigh up the situation at the time to work out what is appropriate.
No one likes to feel lonely. By far the worst type of loneliness is when you are not alone but are feeling ignored, taken for granted or simply disregarded.
Make your friends feel valued and appreciated by respecting their time and feelings. Be present. Be in the moment.
Can you relate to this? Have you been with a friend or even on a date where the other person is more interested in someone on the Internet rather than the person sitting right in front of them?
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