Having someone listen and give me their full attention is a wonderful experience. To look at me directly, face me squarely, perhaps lean-in a little — all the outwards signs of what in counselling is called “attending behavior.” This way you show that my well-being matters to you. Kindly withhold advice and opinions, go easy with “I know just how you feel,” and delay analysis and “here’s what you should do.”
Being heard allows me to relax a little, knowing that I’m not alone (although ultimately I am just that). It offers me some wiggle room, some breathing space so that I can begin to distance my/self from the problem, to begin seeing “it” as separate from “me.”
So, please, the next you find yourself the recipient of someone’s personal story, relax. Unless specifically asked, you’re not required to solve their problem, nor produce a remedy. Exhale and give as much as attention as you’re able to. That is your gift.