Photographer: Tzivi Wenger, age 13, Montreal
Chatting is in a girl’s DNA. It kind of comes naturally. You know, yenting and venting about this, that and the other. So we talk, but sometimes we might feel that the other girl is somewhere in outer space, not really paying attention. It’s not always easy to listen; to really concentrate on her without letting the words wash over you. When you really concentrate on hearing her out, not only will you have helped her, you will have become a better listener.
Don’t just listen. Hear her. Concentrate on what she’s saying. Don’t let your mind wander. Be present. Be there for her.
Forget the advice. Your friend doesn’t want nor need your great advice. She really couldn’t care less. So stash away that need to band-aid the situation, and try helping where help is needed – listen. That is better than the best advice. Plus, if the pearls of wisdom don’t work out, your friend might blame you for any misfortune that may fall her way. But you definitely can – and should- help her brainstorm for her own ideas.
Empathize. Try putting yourself in her shoes. During appropriate points in the conversation, summarize and restate the main points to show that you have actually been listening. This also gives her a chance to correct any mistaken assumptions. You can also repeat her words and encourage her. “You didn’t like being told off. I can totally understand that.” But don’t do it too much, or you might sound patronizing, which is a big no-no.
Silence is more eloquent than words. “Syag L’Chochma Shtika” If you don’t know what to say, don’t say it. Also, don’t try to skip the subject and start prattling about yourself. There’s a time for everything. But now’s just not it.
Make eye contact. But don’t stare, that will be uncomfortable – for both of you.
Nod your head. Show your friend you’re listening with your body language. Try not to fold your arms and close off. Mirror your friend’s movements to help her relax and open up. “Mhmmm”s and “Uh-huh”s are great too.
Don’t push it. Give her time to formulate her thoughts and open up. Pushing will just slow the process.
Reassure her. Be optimistic but realistic, don’t give her false hopes. Don’t lift her spirits, so she can plummet further. Smiling helps.
Unplug those gadgets. Turn off the phone, pause the video, put down the book and shut the laptop. Right now, your friend needs your concentration – not the appliance.
Let her talk. Don’t interrupt her.
Don’t share your own problems. Unless she asks for it, don’t inform her what you did when you were in a similar situation.
Calm down. If there’s a quiet period, don’t try and come up with things to say. Learn to enjoy the silence, use it as a time to collect your thoughts, while she collects hers.
So there you go. Next time your friend wants to have a DMC (Deep Meaningful Conversation), relax. You know what to do. Take a deep breath and settle down for the ride. She’ll feel great, but you’ll feel even better because you will have discovered how nice it is to concentrate and focus on someone else.