We all want to be listened to, to be heard. When we are hurting we want others to understand and be there for us. Unfortunately, many people do not know how to be empathetic or compassionate. They may mean well and don't show it. Or what seems like a big issue to you does not seem that important to them or they grow tired of it over time. The more empathy you can give to others, the more likely you will receive it when needed. This is not a guarantee. Some people are givers and some are takers. It's best to be a balance of both. If people are taking too much from you set boundaries. If you aren't receiving enough support, instead of expecting it from people who aren't giving it, seek out others. Better yet, learn to give yourself all of the empathy, compassion and validation that you need when you need it.
It's important to have a healthy understanding of how to listen, so you can be a good listener yourself. The first step to being a good listener is to stop talking and listen. Be fully present to what the person is saying. Don't anticipate what they will say next. Don't judge what the person is feeling. Sure, you may disagree with their words, but you can look for the feelings underlying the words. Don't assume what they are feeling, ask them. Keep clarifying all the way through the conversation. You can paraphrase back what they are saying, "you feel angry because you don't get your child support check on time." You can also mirror back exactly what they said, "your stomach hurts." This may seem artificial, but practice it and it will soon feel more natural. The response you get from other people will be amazing. People will respond more positively to you because they feel your sincerity and compassion. Misunderstandings are clarified without being blown out of proportion. Self-understanding is promoted for the person you are listening to as well as increasing insight into your self.
Allow vacuums of silence in the conversation. If it's an emotional moment, the person may be gathering their thoughts and will continue to talk. If it's a disagreement, the other person may change their mind without feeling pressured by your words, but will listen to their own inner thoughts. What may seem like a long silence may only be a few minutes. We are so used to constant noise and busyness, silence often feels awkward. Don't rush to fill it. Sometimes amazing thoughts, insights and connections occur because a period of silence is allowed.
In Dale Carnegie's Golden Book, he promotes "become genuinely interested in other people. Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Encourage others to talk about themselves." A good way to engage others in conversation is to ask an open-ended question about family, hometown, hobbies, anything. If you find a similarity with the person that will help to better establish the relationship. For example you loved their hometown during a recent family vacation to that area.
No matter how traumatic your current problems are you still need to listen to other people. It doesn't matter if what they are saying seems minor compared to what you are going through. To them it is of some importance or they wouldn't mention it. If all you do is dominate conversations about your situation, people will start to avoid you. It's easy to become isolated during challenging times. Be a good listener to stay engaged with life.