There’s an art in how to listen to someone talking, whether it be telling a story or discussing a problem.
It’s really simple—you just listen, sometimes ask a few questions, but mostly, you just listen. It's natural to relate your experiences to what the speaker is describing, to jump in, to tell a similar story of your own. This is tricky because the speaker may not be finished, may want to discuss their story without comparing it with your story, may even feel your story grabs the focus away from them and gives it to you. As you listen, keep your advice to yourself unless you’ve been invited to talk about what you think they should do. Whether you share your opinion, how you would feel in a similar situation, depends on how close you are with the speaker and how judgmental your opinion might sound to them; they probably didn’t tell their story so you could tell them they’re wrong or out of line. Intimacy grows when friends feel understood and safe—just listen.
Dr. Jankovich has been working as a psychologist since 1974. She works with a range of areas, including relationships, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, grief, trauma, and struggles with life transitions.
The photo included in this story is licensed under Flickr Creative Commons.