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. 🙂