Listen to episode 3 of The Beautiful Mess here:
For Jane and Jess, true friends make good listeners…
Recently, Jess had a surprise visit from her sister, Nicky, who lives overseas. After the initial excitement had settled down, they sat on the couch with a glass of red wine catching up. Surprisingly, Jess began vividly explaining the chaos of the looting and the flooding in KZN.
The next thing, Jess found herself ugly-crying on her sister’s lap.
“I don’t know why I’m crying. I’ve already processed this with so many people,” she sobbed.
Nicky just hugged her. At this point Jess realised that something unique had happened as she described these events to someone on the outside – someone who hadn’t experienced them.
Nicky had really listened. She hadn’t shared her own experiences, or tried to console Jess by comparing it to the Ukrainian refugees flooding into her own city in Europe. Nicky hadn’t responded with something like, “Well, at least you have a house”, or even tried to cheer her up.
Later that week, Jess told Jane about her sisterly reunion. Of course, Jane wisely observed that Nicky hadn’t actually listened – she had done so much more.
She had been deeply present. She had allowed Jess to ramble and explore her thoughts without interruption. She hadn’t centred on her own experiences or compared similar feelings.
This is, of course, what we all long for in a friend. Someone who will show up, have a drink with us, and let us cry on the couch. But could we be missing the next layer of depth and connection in our friendships if we just stop there? Could there be more than catch-ups and coffees?
Jane and Jess are absolutely convinced there is, so here are our three top tips for being a great friend.
SHOW UP: There is something weirdly awkward in us that makes us step back when our friends are in trouble. Perhaps we’re tired of the same problems, or don’t know what to say. But when our friends are struggling or overwhelmed, we need to show up – with a text, a meal, or just a phone call. They may not respond with the appreciation you expect in the moment – but we all remember the people who showed up for us when everyone else looked the other way.
SHUT UP: Be like Nicky. Pretend you know nothing about the problem or experience, and just listen. Friends probably know what they “should” do, but the one thing they need from the outside is a safe, neutral place to muddle out loud with. Be that person for them and watch your friendship deepen.
GIVE UP: Give up some of the conversation space. Making space for the other person means pressing pause on your own advice or experiences, your own stories to try and out-do your friend. Listen like you’ve got nothing useful, interesting or entertaining to add. There’s a good chance that if you give up talking, you’ll gain trust – and they may even ask you what you think, which is so much better anyway.
If you ask Jane about friendship, there’s someone she will always recommend you pursue a great friendship with.
Being a good friend to yourself might mean bravely allowing someone into your world – someone who will show up, shut up and give up. Treat yourself to time with good people. Being a good friend to yourself might mean noticing the friend who doesn’t show up, shut up and give up. Being kind to yourself might mean acknowledging that some friendships are not the life-giving ones you deserve.
“Friend” is a noble name to give someone.
Maybe your heart is telling you to be a deeper one to someone you love. Maybe your heart is telling you to reach out to a potentially wonderful one. Maybe your heart is telling you that you deserve more than some people can give.
May you show up to the good, great friendships around you. And in you.
Jane and Jess