If there's one thing I've grown to value more than almost anything else the past two years it's conversation. I love to talk whether in person, through e-mail or my blog . I tend to want to get to know people beneath their surface and I've been fortunate to be able to do this, through tremendously personal discussion in some cases.
I've learned that conversation is more about listening than talking. It can be incredibly rewarding and I believe it's an essential part of our growth; sometimes it's easier to see ourselves through others.
I'm not perfect, but these are rules I've set for myself that I always strive to follow...
-Talk less and listen more. Ever have a conversation with someone who seems anxious for you to finish what you're saying just so they can talk? Doesn't show much consideration for the other person does it?
-Be less willing to offer an opinion and more willing to lend an ear.
-Look whomever you're talking to in the eye, give them all of your attention.
-If you don't understand something, ask. Don't skim over it, it will only hinder your understanding of the person you're speaking with.
-Never de-value what someone tells you about themselves. You have no idea how significant a part of their lives it may be or what it took for them to share it with you.
-Keep an open mind. You may not agree with what they're saying, but try to see life through their eyes. It'll better enable you to understand why he/she feels the way they do.
-Give of yourself first, do it willingly and for the right reasons. Never expect anything back. Be genuine, you'll be surprised at what is returned to you in time.
-Never tell someone to trust you. It's unnecessary for those who know you, the rest you have to prove yourself to. Trust can't be demanded, it has to be earned.
-If you feel the need to repeat something that someone has told you in private conversation, check with them first. It may be more personal than you think.
-If you're about to start a sentence with the words, "I'm not supposed to tell you this but..." don't. You're betraying someone's confidence.
-When someone confides in you never repeat it, ever. Die first. I can't emphasize this enough.
-Don't pretend to know how someone feels. We can understand, but we can rarely KNOW what someone's going through.
-If they're upset let them express it. Don't stifle or diminish somebody's feelings. Feel empathy but not pity, most people want to be understood not felt sorry for.
-If someone doesn't want to continue a conversation, respect that. Don't force anyone to swim in deep waters if they don't want to.
-Be patient. Someone may not want to open up to you today, this month or even this year. Realize that we all fight something and some of us need to do it alone, if he/she doesn't want to talk to you about it it's not always personal.
-If you encourage somebody to be open with you, be prepared for what they tell you because it won't always be what you want to hear. Being a friend isn't about just dealing with the good stuff.
-If you tell someone you'll be there for them, then be there. Even when it's not convenient. Lending your shoulder to lean on means you'll feel the weight sometimes but the rewards far outweigh the bruises.
-Realize you can only provide direction, you can't fix people or their situations. (This is something I struggle with).
-If you've told someone they can ask you anything, be ready to answer their questions. What they ask won't always be comfortable, but some people genuinely want to get to know you.