How To Better Communicate With Your Girlfriends
What are the ingredients to a solid relationship with your girlfriends? It starts with active listening for better communication.
Recently, my cousin invited me on a girl’s trip for her birthday. “YES, I love girls’ trips!” I shouted with excitement. I don’t even have to do much to have a great time because I’m usually just there for the conversation. In fact, whenever my bestie has crafting parties and encourages us to participate, I usually just sit around and socialize. It’s just how I do.
I love to talk, but what I love even more is a great conversation. I believe there’s an art and science to meaningful conversation that doesn’t come easily to everyone. Some seem to have more style and finesse than others. Some of us can carry on a conversation with just about anyone on just about any topic, whereas others struggle to have good conversation despite their best efforts.
So, what’s the secret? Why does the art of conversation come so naturally to some and not to others?
(Hint: It has a lot to do with what we’re bringing to the table.)
I believe meaningful conversation starts with a solid foundation that’s built up of four elements: Intentional presence (or active listening), confidence, curiosity and respect. I’ll share my expert tips on communication between friends in a moment, but let’s explore these foundational elements first:
Intentional Presence (Active Listening)
Intentional presence, or active listening, is when you’re thoroughly engaged in what is being said. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because when you’re actively listening, that means you’re not paying attention to things like her outfit, dialect or your rebuttal. Active listening is about being fully present and giving your undivided attention to the one who is currently speaking. Our shorter attention spans are making active listening an increasing challenge, but there is hope.
If you want to be more intentional in your active listening, then practice it everywhere you go. Instead of watching a movie while also scrolling through your phone or working, focus on the movie and what’s being said. When you’re listening to the news, instead of formulating your opinion or deciding if you agree or not, hone in on what is being said. And when your friend is talking, listen intently to what is being said – speak back her words inside your head as she’s voicing them.
It might be surprising, but confidence has everything to do with a quality conversation. When you feel secure in yourself, the topic and with whom you’re speaking, you’re likely to be more calm, clear and present. That’s because you’re not overly concerned with hiding insecurities or revealing your imperfections. When you’re confident in a conversation, your body language will give it away, but so will your speech and choice of words. Confidence is something we should work on daily because it’s vulnerable to some of our natural tendencies such as comparison, judgment and criticism.
So, if you want to communicate better, start with working on your confidence by checking self-talk. Make sure you’re speaking positive and constructive truth to yourself. Another way to grow in your confidence is to stay dedicated to education. The more you know about yourself and other topics, the more confident you can feel in communicating. And one more suggestion for building your confidence is to put yourself in situations where you can practice the art of conversation. Go to networking events, attend workshops, join a small group, etc. You grow in confidence when you grow into your education and experience. Stay committed to both.
Curiosity can lead to incredible conversations because with every question comes an opportunity to learn. Curiosity is important for difficult conversations, too, because instead of becoming defensive, we can ask questions to learn why a person feels what they feel or believes what they believe. Sometimes we’re too quick to share our own perspective or too quick to agree or disagree. By doing so, we miss our chance to learn more about that person.
Curiosity can lead us down a path that we’d never expect. It can guide us to better understanding and appreciation for one another. A simple way to engage in more curiosity is to respond with a question when someone shares an experience, before sharing your own thoughts.
This may seem like a point that doesn’t need to be said, but respect is too important not to mention. One of the reasons communication can go south too quickly is a lack of respect. Respect is when we choose to be present. Respect is when we choose the friendship over proving a point. Respect is when we decide that it’s okay that we don’t see things the same way.
Respect is when we let one another have room and space to have ideas and dreams different than our own, without the call or pull to conform to our level of comfort. Respect is choosing positive words and kind gestures over negativity, jealousy and pettiness. Respect can preserve a relationship and the lack of it can destroy one. So, respect is crucial for healthy communication.
Now, on to my tips for effective communication among female friends:
Let Her Feel It
Sometimes when our friends are going through tough times, they need a safe space to just vent so that they can begin to heal. We can be that place, but that means we’ll have to get down and messy with them. That means we’ll carry (or feel) some of the sorrow with them. And sometimes in our best efforts to help a friend heal, we try to bypass the stage that requires them to feel the pain, so that we don’t have to feel it, too. But for recovery, it’s important for her to feel her pain. So, when your friend is going through a tough time, let her share how she feels and be there to listen without trying to fix it. When she says, “This sucks,” reply with, “It does. And I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
Compliment, But Don’t Overdo It
When I speak at events, I love to get dressed up. And something I notice that women do with one another more so than men, is that we go overboard on the physical appearance compliments. I think it’s great to notice my hair or to compliment my fab shoes, but don’t overdo it. Instead, go beyond the physical appearance compliments. Sure, when you see a girlfriend you haven’t seen in a while, go for the compliments about her appearance, but don’t stop there. Praise her for her accomplishments and ideas, and her ability to share a creative perspective.
Pull Her Card
It can be tempting to start complaining about things we can’t control or change. And while venting is good, it can quickly go overboard. So, when your female friends start going down the complaining road for far too long, pull her card. Ask her some challenging questions that will help her see that she doesn’t have to keep torturing herself over something she can’t change. Help her come up with ideas for moving passed the situation and for making the best of what she’s currently experiencing. For example, if she’s complaining about her partner over-spending, then ask her what she plans to do to create and stick to a new budget. Ask her if she’d like to feel better about the situation and what’s one step she can take towards that.
Don’t Let Her Do It
I think women are amazing at building one another up, but when it comes to building up ourselves, that can be another story. So, during the conversation, if you notice your friend saying negative or critical things about herself, don’t let her do it. Stop her. Encourage her to replace the negative statement about herself with something positive, constructive and productive.
I can’t think of anyone who’s more sensitive than me. I’m bold and talkative, but I’m also very sensitive and I feel deeply. That means I have to be very intentional about guarding my heart. And one way I do this is by choosing to forgive quickly and without reason. It doesn’t mean I heal quickly or that I’m quick to trust, it just means I’m quick to let the offense go and that I choose not to hold it against a person I love and respect, and otherwise have a healthy relationship with.
I don’t do this perfectly and sometimes I mess up, but choosing forgiveness is always the best option. And I want to encourage you to be quick to forgive the small mishaps, too. It will preserve your feelings and your friendship. It doesn’t mean you don’t talk about your feelings, or that you’re giving them a pass. It doesn’t even mean that you don’t have the right to be upset. What it means is that you let your friend free from the bondage that non-forgiveness can create in your heart.
I know we get so excited and have so much to say, but when we interrupt one another it sends a message that what that person has to say isn’t important enough for you to listen. This goes back to the active listening. If we’re actively listening, then we’re not preparing a rebuttal, thus we’re not quick to interrupt. Let your friend communicate her thoughts and ideas without interrupting, even though it’s tempting. It’s best to let her talk, unless she’s bashing herself or complaining for far too long. Go ahead and interrupt her then.
If you focus on actively listening, work on your confidence, and stay curious and respectful, you’ll have the ingredients for a great conversation and strong communication with your friends. And when you add these tips, you’ll have a relationship that will leave you both feeling more fulfilled.
Which of these tips do you need to add to your conversation skillset?
Monique Melton is a believer, wife, and mother of two. She’s a published author, international speaker and relationship coach. Her work is central to loving God and loving people, and encouraging others to do the same. She offers coaching, tools and resources to support women and couples in living their best life. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.