6 Ways to Be a Better Listener When You’re Catching Up with a Friend

6 Ways to Be a Better Listener When You’re Catching Up with a Friend

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Lisa Freedman
May 10, 2017
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Whether you're meeting up with a friend at a bar, taking a walk around the neighborhood together, or having him over for tea, there are some things you can do to make sure it's full of good vibes only.

1. Put your phone away.

Like, totally away. You may think that having it on the table is no big deal. (It's not even face up!) But a 2014 study found that that the mere presence of a cell phone can lessen the quality of an in-person conversation and lower the amount of empathy that is exchanged between friends. Just keep it in your bag. If you're worried that a sitter might call in an emergency, consider giving her a special ring and turning the ringer sound up just a little bit.

2. Actually listen.

Your friend had a rough day? Let her tell you about it. Even if you also had a rough day. You don't have to one-up her, interrupting her story to tell your own. Say "OMG, me too. Tell me about your day first?" And then listen as she talks. Don't use that time to think about what you want to tell her about your own day. Listen to her story.

3. Ask questions.

As you listen to her, ask questions. For example: "Whaaa? Does he always do that?" and "What are you gonna do?" Sitting there — smiling and nodding — is not enough, according to the Harvard Business Review. Instead, to be a really good listener, you have to ask questions that promote discovery and insight. (Their fancy words — not ours!)

More conversation tips: The Secrets of Being a Good Listener—They're Not What You Think at Apartment Therapy

4. And listen to the answers.

Full stop. No further explanation necessary.

5. Pay attention to the nonverbal stuff.

Watch her facial expressions, body language, and other nonverbal cues. Some estimates say that 80 percent of what we communicate comes from these cues, so watch hers. And your own! If you're slouching, yawning, and playing with your coaster, she's going to pick up on the fact that she doesn't have your attention.

6. Ask about the future.

You're probably going to spend a lot of time catching up on what happened last week (or since you guys last saw each other) and that's fine, but don't forget about the future. "A small but bland question like 'What are you doing tomorrow?' very easily leads to a very intimate place, like plans and hopes," says Catherine Blyth, author of The Art of Conversation.

If it's been a while since you two have caught up: Expert Tips for Avoiding Awkward Conversations with Old Friends

What else do you do to set a good vibe when you're catching up with a friend?

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