We’ve all been there – pouring our heart out to a pal only to realize she’s distracted by her own thoughts… or cell phone, television show, the server passing your table with her kryptonite (a piece of unbelievably delicious cheesecake, of course). The “uh-huh”, and, “yeah,” of the conversation and the stray glances around the room are a dead giveaway.

We’ve also been guilty of passive listening ourselves, right? While our friend is in the throes of a breakdown or when she’s needing advice, we’re distracted by the same phone notifications or television blaring in the background.

Passive listening (AKA not really listening) hurts our friendships. There is good news though – we can fix this now and be better friends by using a communication technique called active listening.

Active listening requires the listener to do four core things: concentrate, understand, respond, and remember. Think of it as a cycle – when we concentrate, we understand. When we understand, we can respond appropriately. As a result, we can more easily remember the conversation.

Easy peasy, right? Be a better listener, be a better vina! Here are a few tips to help you become a better active listener, and in turn, a better bestie.

Make eye contact. Put your phone down and look at your friend’s gorgeous face while she talks! This shows you’re fully invested in what she’s saying.

Re-state, but don’t be a parrot. By paraphrasing what you just heard (in your own words), you can ensure you’re on the same page with the speaker. You can use a leading statement like, “Let me get this straight…” before you reiterate what you just heard.

Learn how to effectively question. Sticking to open-ended questions always keeps the conversation going. You can also use leading or reflective questions, like, “What happened next?” or, “What worries you about that?” to make sure your gal knows you’re engaged in the conversation.

Allow for silence or pauses within the conversation. Don’t get in a hurry during your chat. By taking some pauses or letting comfortable silences happen, it slows down the conversation and allows more time for you both to process what is being said.

Avoid blocking the conversation. Interrupting, preaching, or acting judgy toward your friend is probably the quickest way to make sure she doesn’t come back to you with her dilemmas (or her successes!). Keeping your mind open and mouth closed while your bestie tells you what’s on her mind will help you better process what she’s saying while your bond becomes even stronger.

Like most things, practice makes perfect. Active listening is a skill we hone over time that helps us build trust and understanding between us and our friends. Being fully engaged in the conversation takes some work, but we have in us. Be a better friend by being a better listener, babe – our friendships are worth it!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3