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Active listening can bring people closer

Have you ever tried to vent to a friend about difficulties at work or in life?

And their response was “Oh” or “It happens with me too.”

You must have felt they didn’t understand your struggles, right?

Well, the reason is most of us don’t actually listen to others. We are too busy thinking of giving a reply than listening to them. Even I realised this recently when one of my friends was sharing that her child caught a cold and my first response was, “Yes, so did my son.” I didn’t even take a second to listen to what she told me.

And the person trying to share won’t feel better if our objective is to just give a response.

When we try to understand what other people are going through, it makes their life easier!

Wondering how?

Because on some level, we are trying to relate to them and understand their situation.

So next time, when someone opens up to you, don’t talk back; instead, listen to them!

And active listening requires more than open ears — it involves actually engaging with the person by showing empathy and support. It shows you care about what the other person has to say.

Here is how you can practice active listening:

Give your full attention:

When it comes to active listening, show the person you’re focusing on them, not your social media feed or grocery list.

Let them know you are listening to them. Try something like: “That sounds so stressful. Tell me more about it.”

Avoid Interrupting:

People sometimes end up interrupting with the best of intentions.

For example: It’s normal to want to jump in and show your concern when a friend tells you about something terrible their partner did. Although your friend may appreciate your response, this interruption may derail their line of thoughts and leave them feeling unheard.

Don't fear silence:

People often have an urge to fill the silence with an immediate reply. But silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You were listening and not formulating a reply.

So, it’s completely understandable to need a moment to provide a thoughtful response.

Waiting patiently allows them to offer any final thoughts or expand on anything they’ve already shared.

Validate their feelings:

Someone communicating their challenges won’t necessarily want a solution. They may just want to know someone cares about what they’re going through. They wouldn’t open up and share their feelings if they didn’t trust you. So, honour their trust by acknowledging their emotions.

You may say something like:

“It must be hurting you a lot.”

“That sounds really stressful.”

Reflect:

Reflecting or paraphrasing is a crucial component of active listening.

When you paraphrase, you restate what you’ve heard. But ensure, you aren’t simply repeating what they said.

Reflecting takes things a step further since it conveys your understanding while also encouraging them to share more.

Avoid passing judgement:

At some point, you may find yourself listening to something you don’t agree with.

Maybe your friend isn’t happy with her partner’s actions, but from what you’ve heard, it seems pretty clear your friend messed up.

Even if your friend really is the one in the wrong, you can still let them vent without judging their behaviour.

So next time you are listening to someone, I encourage you, and I’m also working on this, to actively listen because your response is less important than how you relate to them.

I hope that helps you just the way it’s helping me.