Association News

Be a Better Friend by Being a Better Listener

Sep 04, 2015
from the American Counseling Association
sponsored by the ACA Foundation

Friendships are an essential part of feeling good about yourself and enjoying positive mental health. But good friendships take time to develop and require both parties to make an effort to build a relationship.

One of the most important elements in a strong friendship is communication. That means not simply being able to talk with each other, but actually being able to "communicate" about important matters. For such communication to take place, and a friendship to grow and develop, being able to listen is a vital skill most of us need to develop better.

You can see the effect of poor listening skills just by observing how various people listen to what you have to say. You'll soon notice that some people pay close attention to your words and communicate back that they understand what you've been saying.

On the other hand, poor listeners are often distracted, pay little attention to your words, give almost no feedback and may misinterpret what you were trying to communicate.

In most cases, you'll find it's the good listener whom you have a better relationship with. Developing your own good listener skills can help improve friendships, family communications, and even work relationships. Fortunately, developing such skills isn't difficult.

One key to good listening is simply to listen more than you talk. Avoid the impulse to interrupt with your own stories and experiences. As a good listener you want to hear what the other person has to say, not to try and top his or her story with a better one of your own.

As a good listener you also want to show you've understood what's being said. If something isn't totally clear, ask for clarification. Show you're been paying attention by feeding back key parts of the conversation, then summarize what you've heard as a way of ending your conversation.

Learning to be a better listener is a key skill for building stronger relationships of every type. Do you really listen when your child has a story to tell about his or her school day? Do you pay attention when your spouse wants to summarize the day's events over dinner? Do you only half hear what a work colleague has to say? Learning to listen well can make every relationship function better. And it can also help those closest to you learn to respect and listen to your words when you have something to share.

"The Counseling Corner" is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nation's largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more about the counseling profession at the ACA web site,

If you would like further information on improving listening skills, or to speak with an EAP counselor, please contact your confidential Employee Assistance Program at 303-982-0377 or visit our website at  Your EAP offers no-cost assistance to all Jeffco Public Schools employees, their family members over age 15, and retirees.  “Confidential help from caring professionals…”