9 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills and Support Your Friends

Although listening might sound like a natural thing to do, we often find ourselves uncertain about how to support someone in a challenging moment. The art of being a good listener involves creating a safe space, understanding when to offer advice, and appreciating the power of silence.

Here are nine strategies to become a better listener and provide empathetic support to your friends and loved ones:

  1. Prepare Yourself
    Before starting a conversation, make sure you are in a positive state of mind and ready to listen. Consider if this is the right moment for you to offer support for your loved one. Check your emotions, clear up your mind of any personal concerns, and ensure you have time to listen without cutting the conversation short.
  2. Ask Open-ended Questions
    Encourage your loved one to share their thoughts and feelings by asking open-ended questions. Avoid simple "yes" or "no" questions and opt for inquiries that invite reflection, such as "How have things been at work lately?" This allows them to express themselves freely.
  3. Give them Time
    Resist the urge to complete their sentences if they struggle to articulate their thoughts. Sometimes, finding the right words takes time. Instead, use body language to show your presence: lean in, make eye contact, and convey your attentiveness through facial expressions.
  4. Listen with Empathy
    Demonstrate understanding by paraphrasing and acknowledging their emotions. For example, "You felt blindsided by the job loss, and the sense of rejection is overwhelming." Reflecting their feelings back to them validates their emotions and encourages further expression.

  5. Avoid Judgement
    Refrain from passing judgment or criticism. Understand that responses to stress vary due to individual experiences, personality, culture, and other factors. As a compassionate listener, your role is to provide comfort and support without imposing your beliefs.
  6. Empower them 
    Resist the urge to provide a list of solutions. Instead, empower your loved one to identify the help they need. Encourage them to reflect on past coping strategies and offer to brainstorm options together, respecting their autonomy.
  7. Respect their Silence
    Sometimes, people may not be ready to talk. Acknowledge their silence by saying, "I noticed you've been quieter than usual. How are you feeling?" If they don't open up, offer to spend time together or let them know you're available when they're ready.
  8. Follow Up
    Show continued support by checking in a few days after the conversation. This demonstrates your care and availability for future discussions.
  9. Recharge your Energies
    Listening to others' pain can be emotionally draining. Be aware of your own emotions and engage in self-care activities like mindfulness exercises, outdoor time, or physical activities to rejuvenate.

Final Thoughts

Our aim is to be good friends and support our loved ones during difficult times. While offering solutions may come from a place of care, becoming a compassionate listener can be more effective. By implementing these simple practices, we can create an empathetic environment that empowers individuals to reflect on their emotions and take action.


Last updated:
6 September 2023