Woman listening to friend on mobile phone

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Strengthen Your Relationships by Learning to Listen
If your idea of being supportive is listening to a person's problems, then detailing the right way to solve them, you may actually be building a wall between you and your friend. According to Parker Palmer, PhD, author of A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, the mantra for true friends should be "no fixing, no saving, no advising, and no setting the other person straight."

"When someone has a worried look or comes to you with a problem, you'll probably invite them to talk about it," says Palmer. But if you listen for a few minutes, then start telling her what to do about it, your friend may not feel heard or accepted. Instead, sit back and practice what Palmer calls "deep listening"—when you suspend your need to be a helper.

"A lot of us justify our existence by helping other people, but often that advice shuts the other person down," says Palmer. Let your friends talk, and if they aren't finding their own answers, ask questions that will help them to explore their own feelings a little deeper. "In creating safe space between yourself and another person, your task is to help them have a deeper and deeper conversation with themselves, not with you. What you think they should do about it is more about your ego than the needs of their soul."