Think of a friend or family member who could use some encouragement, and make a plan to spend time with that person this weekend. What you do together is your choice; perhaps you’ll take a walk, get lunch or coffee, shoot hoops — you know your friend best. Just ensure you have the time and atmosphere that allows for a good conversation.

It can be hard to "just be" with people sometimes.  I always want to fill the quiet with words, talking about the mundane, asking questions to which I already know the answer, anything to fill the silence.  At the same time, that kind of white noise creates distance between me and the people I am trying to be close to.  I once heard that "friendship exists when the silence between two people is comfortable," and I think that's very true.

What I learned through this exercise is that I talk too much.  Even when I'm trying to listen, I talk.  "Uh huh" and "sure" and "OK" are verbal cues that I'm listening, but when used to excess they disrupt the environment.  Filling pauses in a friend's conversation with "sure" is as annoying as when they fill their own pauses with "um."  It actually makes it harder to listen and, sadly, I'll get bored and feel like I need to contribute.

This changes the conversation and redirects the focus to me rather than them.  So yesterday, I made a concerted effort to not talk, but just sit and be with my chosen friend while he talked about his life, his challenges, and his worries.

It was difficult for me, but I could tell later in the day that he was feeling much better having had someone to spend time with.  And I learned a great deal about myself, how I relate to others, and the things I need to work on to better connect to and support my friends.