Step 1: Keep an open mind.
Listen without judging the other person or mentally criticizing the things she tells you. If what she says alarms you, go ahead and feel alarmed, but don't say to yourself, "Well, that was a stupid move." As soon as you indulge in judgmental bemusements, you've compromised your effectiveness as a listener.
Listen without jumping to conclusions. Remember that the speaker is using language to represent the thoughts and feelings inside her/his brain. You don't know what those thoughts and feelings are and the only way you'll find out is by listening.
Step 2: Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
Allow your mind to create a mental model of the information being communicated. Whether a literal picture, or an arrangement of abstract concepts, your brain will do the necessary work if you stay focused, with senses fully alert. When listening for long stretches, concentrate on, and remember, key words and phrases. When it's your turn to listen, don’t spend the time planning what to say next. You can't rehearse and listen at the same time. Think only about what the other person is saying. Finally, concentrate on what is being said, even if it bores you. If your thoughts start to wander, immediately force yourself to refocus.
Source: Dianne Schilling (MSc in Counselling and a founding partner of WomensMedia).
Photo credit: Slideshare.net