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by Abigail Van Buren

Plain Talk May Help Friend Who Has Trouble Listening

DEAR ABBY: I'm a happily married woman who has always valued my friendships. I feel fortunate to have about a dozen women friends I can talk to, have lunch with and enjoy girls' weekends with.

One of my longtime friends, "Cecily," is a widow. She's an attractive, intelligent, vibrant woman who complains to me that she is lonely and wants companionship. She has had several relationships since her husband's death, but none have led to marriage.

Not long ago, Cecily mentioned that I'm the last of her girlfriends -- the others have drifted away. I think I know the reason. Cecily is a poor listener and forcefully talks over whomever she's speaking with, which indicates that she's not really listening to the person but instead forming her next thought. She does it with me often, but realizing she has a need to be heard, I let her talk until she winds down.

I'm afraid that the people she wants to be close to lose interest in maintaining a friendship with her because of it. Should I share this with her? I believe it is affecting her life and has caused her to slip into a mild depression. -- FRIEND WHO CARES IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR FRIEND: Sometimes it takes a friend to tell a person a truth that he or she needs to hear. But before you do, first ask yourself: "Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?" I'd say that in Cecily's case, your message qualifies on all three counts, so go ahead and speak up.