How to sharpen your listening skills.

Listening is an important skill to have but a lot of people do not really know how to listen effectively. I have learned over the years that the most valuable thing that I can offer to anybody is to simply be a good listener. If you think about it, a truly best friend is a great listener. Most of the time people are looking for friends who will listen without judging.
When talking about my illness to people I have find that I have run across people that simply do not listen. Although it comes from the right intentions, people will try to relate to my illness with something that they have had before and often will hand out unwanted and bad advice when all I really need is for them to listen. We all have our own story, no one really knows how you and I feel, they can relate, but they do not know how we feel. We all handle our trials, troubles and illnesses differently, we are all unique, our internal make up is different, our feelings are our feelings. Try to never say, “I know how you feel.”
Here are some great ways to begin sharpening your skills on listening to others. 
1. Allow others to say what they are going to say. Let them tell their story, an opportunity will come at some time in the relationship for you to tell your story in relation to their story.
2. Stay silent!
3. Bank information.
4. Be open and receptive.  nod, smile, make occasional eye contact, act like you care.
5. Only give advice if the person asks for it and keep the advice short and to the point.
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