I had the good fortune of receiving a couple calls back to back last night from two very dear friends. I'd drop most things (the exception being driving in L.A. traffic and a deadline) to sit and chat on the phone with my girlfriends about really anything. It just so happened last night's topic du jour had to do with relationships - platonic and romantic. The topic wasn't really so important as much as the experience of sharing that topic. My mother used to say to me that you should do more listening and less talking because God gave you two ears and one mouth. Hat tip to mommy dearest. So when I do "talk" with friends, I like to try and listen patiently while the other party explains - sometimes at lengthy efforts - the egregious situation at hand they're experiencing and simply must get off their chest. Try it, it doesn't come so easy sometimes.
Given a choice between listening and talking, people express more talent in talking about themselves. Go to any party and if you're struggling with a dull conversation, just ask that person lots of questions about themselves. If they're not in a coma, the dialogue will pick up in a snap. It reminds me what they taught me as a journalist student. Listen. Listen. Listen. Essentially, absorb what information you're given; and it will give you a better understanding from which to jump into questions - or in my friend's case, offer a suggestion or two. Why am I bringing this up?
Often, people just need the cathartic experience of ranting or having a sympathetic ear to share the troubles of their world with--the subject matter is irrelevant because things affect all of us differently. And we're social creatures, we literally must interact for the sake of our survival (studies have proven that babies can actually perish if nobody touches or interacts with them). Take Kitty for instance, who felt it justifiable enough to jump in front of my laptop for mere minutes of affection before her afternoon nap.
In my case with friends, I do genuinely care what they're sharing with me. It's not uncommon for our conversations to sign off with a couple "love you's." As individuals, it's of the utmost importance to not be so self-focused on our own vexations and tribulations -- espesh when there is really much satisfaction in being there for a friend, the effort is all in simply listening.