"Whatever life we have experienced, if we can tell our story to someone who listens, we find it easier to deal with our circumstances." Margaret J. Wheatley
Four tips for Effective Listening
Be Present - Initially, it is vital to be present and with the speaker, to give them our full attention. If possible find a quiet place for a listening exchange where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Turn off phones and any background noise. Honour your boundaries, if you feel you only have 20 minutes to listen, say so at the beginning so the boundaries are clear or explain that now is a not a good time and arrange to connect when the time is right. To the best of your ability come from a place of acceptance and compassion and avoid judgement of them or their story. Be fully attentive to them and the energy between you.
"Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen." Margaret J. Wheatley
The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. (Paul Parker)
In order to acknowledge their experience and what they have shared, you can reflect back to them what you heard them say, for example "You felt very angry when that happened". Such a reflection does a number of things, it shows that you are listening, that their feelings or expressions are valid and enables them to go into more depth around the issues. In focussing on the other person you may notice the subtleties of body language, tone of voice... etc which can sometimes indicate more than their words and again if appropriate you can reflect back what you notice.
Don't engage in a drama or exaggerate the situation, sometimes what is being shared may arise feelings in you, acknowledge these internally though put them aside you can always return to explore them yourself at a more appropriate time.
This is an excellent video relating to how to support a grieving friend and the principles offered could be used with other challenging situations, not only grief. The way to help someone feel better is to encourage them to be with their pain, to explore and accept it and then they may feel empowered to move through it.
One of the easiest human acts is also the most healing. Listening to someone. Simply listening. Not advising or coaching, but silently and fully listening.
Margaret J. Wheatley