It’s hard to know what to do when someone is ranting. A lot of people will try to jump in and give advice. Others freeze up and just sit there silently. Neither of those approaches will help the person get the negative emotions out and move on (which is what she needs most).
Next time someone is bending your ear about a problem, try asking questions. Start by probing into what she’s most frustrated about. If you ask about her feelings, it often sounds condescending. Asking about frustration is less judgmental. Listen and gather more details about the problem. Once she’s vented her feelings, she’ll be in a better place to think about potential solutions.
When people are upset, it matters less what you tell them than what you enable them to tell you.
Adapted from “How to Listen When Someone Is Venting,” by Mark Goulston.