Ways to listen and ways to respond

When someone initiates a conversation with you about something they are either working through or are celebrating…

  1. You can listen as you filter what they say through your own lens – what this might mean for you, how you identify, how it makes you feel, and how you can stay relevant – and you can prepare your response. You might even respond and share while they talk because you don’t want to forget later. When someone comes to you with something… you will have missed an opportunity to truly be there for them and to get to know them beyond what you already think you know.
  2. You can listen by getting yourself out of the way. Their tone means less about you and more about what they are experiencing, which is about them. You can listen to understand what they need at that very moment: (a) to simply share, let it out, or think out loud with you as the sounding board and a safe, healing space, or (b) they can be looking for suggestion or advice from you. But they will ask, and if you aren’t sure, you might want to ask first before you give it.

You can respond in a way that fulfills your need, or you can respond in a way that fulfills theirs. They offer different trajectories on the level of intimacy in a relationship.

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