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Improve This *One* Thing To Make Your Relationships Better

Improve This *One* Thing To Make Your Relationships Better

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

Why Making Friends Online is Totally Normal

Why Making Friends Online is Totally Normal

Before the internet, a girl from Indiana couldn’t fathom making friends with someone from California. Or Australia. Or even someone in her city, without leaving the comfort of her home. My goodness, how things have changed.

Over the last decade, we have witnessed technology evolve right before our eyes – it’s bringing us together, from all corners of the globe. And it’s freaking awesome.

I grew up in a very rural area of the Midwest – back then, we relied on making friends in our hometowns or from neighboring schools through sporting events and after school activities. Until we could drive and get jobs outside our small town, our friend circles revolved around who was in our classes or extra curriculars. But when I was thirteen, the internet finally arrived in my area.

I remember chatting online with people in my area then making plans to meet them when our schools played each other in basketball or football. I was able to make friends outside the small circle of people I knew my whole life, and I loved it. It’s true – I was hooked on making friends with strangers through the computer. Some I’d meet in person, and who are important people in my life still. Some I still talk with online, still having never met them in person.

When I was a kid though, I was teased for chatting online with strangers. People in my class thought I was lame for chatting on ICQ or AIM, but I didn’t care. I loved meeting new people, in person or over a computer. Fast-forward (more than) a few years later… it’s now considered normal to find relationships and meet new friends off the internet based on your common interests. YAAS, FINALLY!

Over the years, I’ve formed wonderful relationships with folks I’ve met online. I’ve had deep conversations with people I’ve never seen before in person through forums and social networking websites. I’ve forged lifelong bonds with some amazing women who I see regularly. When Twitter took off, I joined solely to follow my favorite rockstar… but soon found a community of fans that were just like me. We started talking to each other online through 140 characters at a time, then ended up meeting each other at concerts all over the country. During the times we waited for (an insane amount of) hours together to snag a front row spot to see our favorite band perform, we created meaningful friendships with each other. Some of the ladies I met during that time I speak with almost daily, and they are coming to my bridal shower this spring!

With websites like Twitter to find people who are into the same things you are, it’s so easy to make new friends online. And again, it’s freaking awesome – most women know it’s harder to make friends once they have finished their college years, begin professional careers, or start having children.

Our circles naturally shrink when we grow older, but ladies, I’m here to tell you they don’t have to. The internet makes it SO much easier for us to form friendships with people we wouldn’t meet under what we used to consider normal circumstances. Luckily for all of us, the new normal is making friends online. The thirteen year old me is rejoicing and shouting “see, I told you this would take off!”

This post was originally published on the VINAzine. <3