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The One Thing You Can Do to Be a Better Listener

Your friend seriously needed someone to vent to. So you show up with a bottle of red and let her do her thing. You’re completely attentive—with your on phone on mute, zipped up in your bag out of reach—and you haven’t interrupted to relate something back to yourself once. Nice job, you’re being a good listener. But there’s one thing you’re about to do that could ruin your A+ track record: Give advice. 

Here’s why: When people confide in you, a lot of times they’re simply doing just that—they just have to get their version of a story out. They want a friend to sit there like a sponge and soak up all the details about annoying Todd at work or a nosey sister-in-law or a judgy PTA mom. While it’s totally fine (and a quality of a good listener) to ask questions, you do not need to problem solve. In fact, if you start passing out unsolicited advice, your friend might not feel heard and wasn’t that the whole point of this vent sesh in the first place?

We know, it sounds a bit counterintuitive. Shouldn’t you help a struggling friend? Yes, of course, but maybe that comes the second (or third) time she comes to you with the same issue. Plus, there’s a pretty good chance she just needed to release some steam to move on. (And come on, you’ve totally been there: I don’t need advice. I just want to complain!)

So sit back, relax and take it all in. Your job is way easier than you thought it was. 

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