The skills you should use to show you are listening to the person are simple:
Listen without interrupting.
Ask appropriate questions to make sure that you are both clear on what is being said.
Listen to the words and the tone of voice and look at the body language – all will give you clues as to how the person is feeling.
Check your understanding of what is being said by saying something like ‘it sounds like you are saying (or feeling)… have I understood that right?’
Summarise facts and feelings.
Minimal prompts such as, ‘Mmm’, ‘Ah’, or ‘I see’, may be all that is necessary to keep the conversation going.
It is okay to have long pauses in the conversation. The person may simply be thinking or lost for words. If you say something to fill what you see as an embarrassing silence, you may break the train of thought or rapport between you.
Sitting quietly, but attentively, through a period of silence will demonstrate that you value being with the other person. This is more effective than anything you may say will demonstrate.
Make use of non-verbal skills (or body language) such as:
Keep eye contact comfortable – do not stare or avoid eye contact.
Keep an open body position – try not to cross your arms across your body.
Sit down, even when the other person is standing – it will make you seem less threatening.
Try not to sit directly opposite, facing the other person – this may seem as though you are invading their space.