Here’s How To Be A Better Listener When Your Friends Open Up & Vent To You
Who isn't guilty of having their eyes glaze over when someone is talking? Or saying a perfunctory "that's wild!" to someone, even though you didn't totally process the story they just told you? We've all been there from time to time, but if you find you're the type who habitually loses track of what people are saying, or you can't remember details of stories, or you have, on occasion, been told you don't seem like you're listening when a friend is venting, it might be time to learn how to be a better listener — at least for the sake of being there for the people you love, you know?
And seriously, as basic as it might seem, being able to listen when people are talking to you — like, really listen — is important. It makes you a better friend, a better storyteller, and an all-around better communicator. Plus, as Murray Nossel, Ph.D., author of the book Powered by Storytelling, tells Elite Daily, stories are how people connect with one another. "Storytelling is in our DNA and is hardwired into our brains," he says. "Whether we’re telling at personal story or a story at work, for stories to have any kind of impact, someone has to be listening."
And while this might seem counterintuitive, Nossel says, the best way to improve your own storytelling skills is, first and foremost, to become a better listener. So really, you could be reading this article for purely selfish reasons to become a more engaging storyteller yourself — or you could work on your listening skills, like I said earlier, for the sake of your loved ones. I promise I won't tell anyone what your real intentions are. Either way, here's what you need to know, y'all.
1. Identify The Obstacles To Listening
Consider what's making it hard for you to listen. Is it because you're scrolling through Twitter at the same tiem, perhaps, or maybe that you're agitated about something else? "Obstacles to listening include environmental factors, e.g. jackhammers in the street, extreme heat or cold, and the constant stimulation of personal devices," Nossel tells Elite Daily, but they can also include psychological and inner states, he adds, like fatigue, hunger, thoughts, and feelings.
"If it’s too noisy, try to move to another space," he suggests. "Eat if you’re hungry. These are the easy ones. More difficult is letting go of feelings like resentment and anger; but the first step here is to recognize them."
2. You First Have To Learn How To Tune Into Yourself
"Listening always begins with you," Nossel says. It's a simple piece of advice, yes, but it hits home because, before you can effectively listen to anyone else, you need to be able to tune into your own mind and body. In practice, this might mean taking a few moments to yourself to simply listen to your own breathing, or the various sensations happening in your body when you just sit still, and really pay attention to them — what they feel like, what they make you think of, etc.
In fact, Nossel says, this is really the only way you'll be able to identify most of the aforementioned listening obstacles anyway, and from there, you can avoid the distractions to the best of your ability.
3. Make Sure It's A Good Time For Everyone
"Before sharing a story with someone, ask them if they’re able to listen," Nossel tells Elite Daily. "If someone’s in a rush or under deadline, they’re unlikely to be able to listen. So it’s not the best time to share anything important."
Of course, the same goes for the opposite situation: If someone wants to share a story with you, but you know you're busy doing something else for the moment, be honest about your distractions, and make it known you want to set aside a time for when you'll be able to really give this person your full, undivided attention.
4. Be Grateful For Everyone's Time
Again, engaging in the importance of listening from both sides is really important, Nossel says. He suggests making sure to thank the people who listen to your stories, and you might, indeed, find how thankful other people are when you do the same for them.
"Given our busy lives, listening is a rare gift," Nossel tells Elite Daily. "Acknowledging your listener reinforces the importance of their part in the communication and enhances the connection."
5. Refrain From Always Sharing Your Opinions And Judgments
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Viola Drancoli, when a friend is venting to you, it's important to listen to them without judgment. "Listening to each other, rather than coming up with advice or passing judgment, is one important way of providing support and showing empathy," she tells Elite Daily.
So, no, you don't always need to tell your friend right away that it's time to quit that job, or to ease up on the dating apps. Sometimes, all you really need in a friend is someone who's down to listen to you go on and on about anything and everything. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, try to do the same for the people you love. Trust me, they will appreciate it.