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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A Letter To My Best Friend On Valentine's Day

Because you are my ultimate Valentine.

To my beautiful best friend,

Warning: This letter is about to get extremely cheesy. I am talking four cheese lasagna cheesy. But no one deserves a love letter like this more than you do.

This Valentine’s Day, I want to express my love for you. On this wondrous occasion with which most people express their love to their significant other, I want to tell you, my best friend, how much I cherish our friendship.

SEE ALSO: A Valentine's Day Love Letter To My Girl Best Friends

You are the ultimate love of my life. Boys have come and gone but you remain a constant; for that I am grateful. You have been there for me when my family could not be; for that I am grateful. You have been my backbone, my rock, and all those other clichés people use to describe the people they care about, and yet you have been so much more than that as well; for that I am grateful.

All my love this Valentine’s Day goes out to you, my friend, because you do not receive it enough. You have picked me up out of the dirt, brushed me off, and kissed my wounds more times than I can count, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that, but I am sure am going to try.

Thank you for the midnight cries. Thank you for the midnight laughs. Thank you for ordering way too much food with me and still just eating it all. Thank you for the advice, both solicited and unsolicited. Thank you for telling me what I need to hear, even when it isn’t what I want to hear. Thank you for the silly pictures. Thank you for the stupid inside jokes. Thank you for making bad decisions with me. Thank you for laughing with me and laughing at me. Thank you for the endless memories.

SEE ALSO: An Open Letter to the Best Friend I've Ever Had

More than anything, I want you to know that I love you. I love you. You are the family I get to choose, the one I go to when I have nowhere else to turn. You are the one I know I can always run to, whether we saw each other yesterday or haven’t seen each other in a year. You have played a part in molding who I am as a person, and I am so grateful for having such an amazing person affecting my life in such a positive way.

With all the love in my heart,

Your friend
Cover Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/natalie.pederson.5/photos

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To The Friends I Can Be Myself Around

An open letter to those whose friendships I value more than a pint of Graeter's ice cream.


There are those friends I love and care about deeply, but cannot be my true self around. Someone asked me before, "How can you call someone your friend if you can't be yourself around them?" I don't change myself to accommodate them or act in a manner unnatural to me — I just don't show them some sides of me. Growing up, some of my friends did not understand how I could ever want to write books or how I could love reading so much, so I learned at a young age to keep that side of me to myself. And yes, those are important parts of me, but my friends who did not understand it did accept it, and that was enough. Some thought it bizarre and humorous I love Celtic instrumental music or said some hurtful things about what I love that I realize now wasn't okay. But at the end of the day, there is love between us and common ground where I just remember to not mention some things.

Then there are those friends I can be my complete, unapologetic, authentic self with. The ones who support and encourage you to chase your dreams, even if they don't understand them. The ones who you can cry to about something silly, say whatever is on your mind without regretting it, and who thinks it's preposterous you refuse to fart in their presence because your other friends would give you crap for it (pun intended, and also true story). The ones you stay up late into the night talking about philosophy and crushes until your voices begin to rasp. The ones who are the closest to your heart.

I want to say thank you to these brilliant, caring, beautiful friends, new and old. Your love and support has helped me at all times, through the good and the bad and the boring. I only hope to be the same friend to you, to be open-minded, supportive, and enthusiastic. I believe it is important to cultivate a wide range of friends and support, but many of the friendships I mention earlier will most likely only be kept alive through memories; ours will last many lives to come. I look forward to growing old with you all and growing together.

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