Often people think that to gain acceptance through listening, that they have to agree with what they’re hearing. Not so. This is such a foreign concept for most of us including myself. As listeners, we don’t have any “responsibility” to dispute. People say all kinds of crazy stuff but as good communicators and listeners, it’s not our duty to “set them straight” or “fact check” their statements. And often with geeks, this need to dispute cuts off good and easy communication.
Usually, even in emotionally charged situations, after a person has been heard without judgment or argument, at least half of their charge about the issue simply goes away and they’re in a much better place to discuss it.
And often, after just listening to another person, they believe you agree with them even though you’ve only nodded your head and said things like “That’s a tough situation to be in.” It should be noted here that most folks don’t actually like sympathy (i.e. someone feeling sorry for them) but they appreciate empathy (i.e. that someone understands their feelings). Empathy is extremely powerful yet simple tool in your arsenal. Listen, don’t analyze, understand what the other person is feeling or thinking, acknowledge. (see post “When Dogs Can Speak” for more on this.)