Written By: Crystal Chan
Have you ever been in the following situation?
You and your friend are having a conversation. It is about a personal issue of your friend. You were listening and providing feedback to your friend… and suddenly your friend looked annoyed and asked, “Do you actually hear what I said or do you just want to talk about yourself?”
You probably were shocked and confused, maybe even a little hurt. Yes?
Because that’s how I felt a few weeks ago.
I personally see myself as a loyal and supportive friend. I thought I was listening attentively so my friend’s comment was very upsetting to me. But, thinking back what has been said between us – I was keen to offer some advice to my friend, I actually paid very little attention to their expressions and feelings.
In other words, I was simply listening to respond, not listening to understand.
We seem to be very fixated on the desire to be heard and have lost our ability to “listen” along the way. A great conversation does not always involve lots of words being exchanged. It is more about the people engaged in the conversation being present for each other. Solidarity may sometimes be better communicated through silence or body gestures.
A good article on “Active Empathetic Listening” can be found here
As for myself – I apologized to my friend and they accepted it. We continued to discuss the issue. This time, I listen to simply acknowledge whatever is going through my friend’s mind is valid. My friend felt the support that they needed. We both felt better at the end.