4 Ways to Help a Hurting Friend (and be a better listener)

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Friends

1. Don’t Compare Your Stories.  Sure, when I’m going through something I want to know that the person in whom I’m confiding shares some similar experiences, but there’s a fine line between common ground and invalidation.  If everything they say elicits a “Oh yeah, I remember when that happened to me,” response from you–you can pretty much guarantee they’ll find someone else to talk to next time. (So if that’s not your goal 🙂 adjust accordingly!)   

2. Be Present.  I’m going to state the obvious (although maybe it’s not as obvious as it should be).  Don’t answer or make a phone call, send a text message, tweet, update your Facebook status etc…, while a friend is sharing with you.  And don’t try to formulate a witty or meaningful response to what she’s saying; it only distracts you from truly listening.  Most of the time she’s not looking for you to fix it, she just wants to talk it through.  

3. Don’t Interrupt.  I put this one towards the bottom of the list because…UGH!  I have a really hard time with this one.  My husband tells me I have a really bad habit of doing this (thank you very much, honey!), and I’m trying to do better.  When I interrupt it’s normally because I don’t want to forget what I was going to say–but when I’m supposed to be listening it doesn’t matter what I wanted to say (see #2).  Worse yet, when I interrupt I might cause my friend to forget what she was saying!

4. Maintain Confidentiality.  This one is huge!  The root word of confidentiality is confident, and it speaks to building trust.  I don’t know about you, but I want my friends to be confident that when they share something with me it won’t end up on social media or in the ear of someone else.  When a friend places her trust in you, don’t betray it!  Simple. As. That. 🙂

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