Learning To Be A Better Listener

Learning To Be A Better Listener

Gaining confidence in your skills as a confidant.

In my life, I have had nothing but experiences. Experiences good and bad, big and small, all of which perpetually and infinitely overlap with the lives and experiences of those around me. It’s easy to want to make those connections in day-to-day conversation, to want to bring your own life into comparison with those around you, because in some ways it feels right to let others know that they’re not alone in what they’re going through and what they’re feeling. But as I’ve gotten older and as I am coming into contact more and more with people dealing with the pressures of the adult world, I've learned that it can take away from the salience of another’s experience to be constantly connecting it to your own. That being said, as I get older and I meet more people, I am learning to become less of a sharer, and more of a sponge.

Being a confidant can be particularly difficult, especially considering that the greenness of my springtime youth was flecked with the harsh winter of adulthood before it could ever really fully blossom. All grandiose metaphors aside, I’ve seen some things. And it can be easy, when other people are going through crises of faith and family and finance, to hear what’s being told to you and go “Oh yeah, the same thing happened to me when I was nine.” I am coming to realize that such a comment, while seemingly appropriate, can actually trivialize the other person’s own experience. They may be dealing with it and struggling now, but then to hear you say that is like hearing someone say “I wasn’t even in training bras when I decided God wasn’t real, and I made it through— don’t be such a wuss.”

Given, perhaps my own life experience and personal recommendations of ways to fight through might come in handy somewhere down the road, but at that moment all that person is probably seeking is validation in their own feelings. Validation, which I have in the past poo-pooed. If we’re being honest, I think it’s a term that has been exhausted by the contemporary youth, nevertheless, it is something I’ve come to recognize as being incredibly important and highly covetous. I’ve personally been dealing with some big people issues as of late, and feeling as if the problems that I have are somehow minimized because those around you have felt the same way, or potentially worse, in no way makes said feelings feel any less critical. Sometimes, when offering a shoulder to cry on, the best thing to do is embody the shoulder, to be the literal shoulder, and remain completely silent and supportive.

There is, of course, an appropriate way to respond to other people’s disclosed problems without being a big-mouthed one-upper. You can ask questions, inquire further, push the person to think more about their own experience versus forcing them to think about yours. I have taken to imagining myself, having never felt what that person has felt, and experiencing it with them as a means of building empathy because we all individually feel differently. Because we all individually feel differently, we also all individually experience our experiences in a way which is incomparable to anyone else’s, even if the storylines are near identical.

Imagine every life experience like a scene, but for every person experiencing it, a different director picks up the script. For some, a situation might feel more Wes Anderson than Quentin Tarantino, and even though the dialogue might be a word-for-word match, the presentation is uniquely their own.

Cover Image Credit: Stocksnap / Pixabay

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14 Fraternity Guy Gifts Ideas, Since He Already Has Enough Beer

Frat boys are a species of their own and here are some exciting gifts they will be ecstatic to receive!


What more do frat boys love than alcohol, partying, and just acting stupid? Here are some gifts that help fulfill all of those needs for the frat boy in your life!

1. Beer holster belt

Whats better than one beer? Six beers! This fashionable camouflage accessory can be used for tailgates, beach days, formals and everything in between.

Price: $8.49

2. Phone juul holder 

You know those cardholders everyone sticks on the back of their phones? Well, now a Juul holder for your phone is on the market! This will save your favorite frat boy from ever again losing his Juul!

Price: $10.98

3. Animal house poster 

This Animal House poster is a classic staple for any frat boy. This poster will compliment any frat house decor or lack thereof.

Price: $1.95

4. The American Fraternity book

Does the frat boy in your life need a good read for Thanksgiving or winter break? Look no farther, this will certainly keep his attention and give him a history lesson on American fraternity heritage and tradition.

Price: $28.46

5. Beer pong socks 

These snazzy socks featuring beer pong will be loved by any frat boy. As for the way to any frat boy's heart may, in fact, be beer pong.

Price: $12.00

6. Condom case

This condom carrying case will not only protect condoms from damage but also make frat boys more inclined to practice safe sex, which is a win-win situation!

Price: $9.99

7. Frat house candle

Ahhh yes, who does not like the smell of stale beer in a dark, musty frat house basement? Frat boys can make their apartment or bedroom back home smell like their favorite place with the help of this candle.

Price: $16.99

8. "Frat" sticker

Frat boys always need to make sure everyone around them knows just how "fratty" they are. This versatile stick can go on a laptop, car, water bottle, or practically anywhere their little hearts desire.

Price: $6.50

9. Natty Light t-shirt 

Even I will admit that this shirt is pretty cool. The frat boy in your life will wear this shirt at every possible moment, it is just that cool!

Price: $38.76-$41.11

10. Natty light fanny pack 

This fanny pack can absolutely be rocked by any frat boy. The built-in koozie adds a nice touch.

Price: $21.85

11. Bud Light Neon Beer Sign 

A neon beer sign will be the perfect addition to any frat boys bedroom.

Price: $79.99

12. Beer Opener

Although most frat boys' go to beers come in cans, this bottle opener will be useful for those special occasions when they buy nicer bottled beers.

Price: $7.99

13. Frat House Dr. Sign

Price: $13.99

Forget stealing random street signs, with this gift frat boys no longer have to do so.

14. Beer Lights 

Lights are an essential for any party and these will surely light up even the lamest parties.

Price: $17.19

Please note that prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication. As an Amazon Associate, Odyssey may earn a portion of qualifying sales.

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To The Strong Friend Of The Group, It's OK To Cry

Sometimes your strong friend needs a shoulder to lean on.


I am the strong friend of my group.

You know, that friend that never really lets their emotions get the best of them. The friend that everyone calls when they're having an extremely crappy day. The friend that always has an empty shoulder and just the right words when you've gone through your third relational break-up.

I am that friend.

Its like some sort of inevitable thing, every friend group has one. But, has anyone ever thought to ask how the strong friend is holding up? I can guarantee you, nine times out of ten we're barely making it. We never think to push our problems on others so we'd rather ignore our own to help our friends fix theirs. We're certainly headstrong when it comes to ourselves but understanding when it comes to those we care about. I'll admit, sometimes it gets tough being this friend. I'd place most of the reasoning behind the notion that because we put up such a tough exterior everyone may feel as though we're fine.

As the strong friend, I'm here to tell you: its okay to cry. Its okay to let your guard down.You don't have to be strong 24/7 and unless you're some sort of robot, you have emotions too. I know it can be tough because its something we're not used to and kind of weird because we're actually on the opposite side of the spectrum. I guess the saying is true, "sometimes you just have to cry it out."

Now, I'm not talking full blown therapy sessions here. But, every now and again call your closest friend and try telling them when you've had a bad day. Call them when you're anxious about that job interview you had, you know the one you've been busting your butt for. Don't worry, they'll be more than understanding and more than willing to be able to make their "strong friend" feel good for once.

The main point of all of my ranting is this—after taking care of everyone else we have to think, "Are we taking care of ourselves?"

Being the strong friend can be debilitating, but we cant become so consumed with everyone else's problems that we forget about our own. Bottled up emotions are the worst ones. So strong friend, next time you're feeling sad, mad, happy or glad let it out; scream and shout and tell your closest friends what it was all about.

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