1. Don’t interrupt. Let the speaker finish what they are saying – and at a speed that is comfortable for them – before formulating your own response.
2. Give the speaker your full and undivided attention. Ignore what is happening around you and block out distracting noises.
3. Pay attention to your own internal dialogue, and don’t allow your mind to wander. This is not the time for you to be judging or mentally criticising the speaker, or to be thinking about all the items on your to-do list for the day. Focus on what is being said, the tone of voice, and the body language of the speaker.
4. Pay attention to your own body language. Ask yourself: what kind of vibes am I giving off? What kind of message am I sending? The emphasis should be on looking and sounding concerned, interested, focused, accepting and genuine.
5. Be comfortable with silence. Often silence encourages the person to say more. Also, we don’t need to have an answer to every question, or a solution to every problem. Most of the time it’s presence and empathy that count the most.
6. Don’t get drawn into playing the game of “I have it so much worse than you; or my problem is bigger than yours.” In this situation, you are there for them. They are the focus and priority right now.