Do you remember a show called The Pickup Artist? It was on about five years ago (Bonny from our Dating site has some info on it), and it was a reality show/contest where guys would get "coached" in how to pick up women. The guys on the show were all awkward when it came to girls, and they would go through these exercises and lessons each week on how to appeal to women.
The reason I bring this up is because I remember one of the episodes where guys were supposed to pay close attention to what a woman said. To help them practice this, they brought in these scantily-dressed women to talk to guys about what type of lingerie they most favored, and then the guys had to go to the store and buy it.
What tripped up most guys was the fact that while the woman had on one type of panty or bra, for example, they would actually tell the guys that what they liked was a different type. So when the guys went to the store, many of them bought what they saw the girls wearing, rather than what the girls told them they wanted to wear. If I remember correctly only one guy aced this exercise, and I knew he was going to get the right thing because I remember him jotting down notes and paying attention while the other guys were busy drooling over the women.
Why do I bring this up?
That particular episode stayed with me for the simple reason that it demonstrated how poor people are at listening. It's not just guys failing to listen to women, either. It's friends failing to listen to each other. We see our friend and fall into this routine where we almost think we know what they are going to say. As a result, we don't listen anymore. They might tell us something subtly and we'll miss it. They might tell us something flat out and because we've programmed ourselves to think a certain way about them, we don't really hear what they're saying.
This is where active listening is especially important. Active listening isn't a new concept, but it's certainly one that isn't used often enough in friendship.
Case in point, have you ever been out somewhere and a stranger starts telling you their personal history. You might be really amazed at what they had to say. But if a friend did the same thing, you might listen with half your attention. Maybe you'd have one eye on your phone while they talked, or you assume you've heard this story before so you stop listening fully. This can cause all kinds of problems in friendship, and even lead to friends calling it quits down the line. No one wants to feel as if they aren't important enough in someone's life to be heard. I've got some tips about active listening and how it can improve your friendships here. Take a look and see if you need to improve on your listening skills (nearly all of us need to do this!). Also, if a friend has been great at listening to you when you need to be heard, why not give a shout out to them here?