A friend recently asked me about listening and I said I'd give him a few pointers. I thought of an acronym GWTF.
Here it is:
GWTF (GO WITH THE FLOW)
G is for GET: let them GET their feelings off their chest. Feelings are like a river, so let them flow! You don't need to do anything other than GET out of the way. Make room. Be receptive. Most of the time all we need to untangle our feelings is someone willing to GET them.
W is for WITH/HOLD: WITHHOLD (refrain from) expressing your own point of view, feelings, opinions, comments or reactions, especially negative ones (criticism). Do HOLD the person with your quiet presence, your eyes, your arms. Show them you are WITH them. They will feel held and heard. That is doing a lot!
T is for TIME: take the TIME they will need to get out all their feelings. Don't rush them, interrupt, stop them or give advice, especially when you feel like you have to do something. Don't. You will merely block their flow. And the more you do that, the longer you will be there! Be a conduit not a dam, and the river will come to rest all by itself. Give it TIME.
F is for FEELINGS: if you must do something, FEEL. Feel what they feel. Picture yourself in their shoes. Guess what emotions they might be experiencing. You can even say (when they have stopped sharing) "you must FEEL X, Y or Z". Let them correct you if you are wrong and don't take it personally. Remember! It is not about you. If all else fails, nod sympathetically and say "uh-huh" or "I hear you".