I like this summary of the qualities of listening I found in Ann Weiser Cornell’s book The Power of Focusing:
A welcoming presence means you are interested in everything you become aware of inside. Each feeling you become aware of, no matter how ugly or negative it appears at first, has good reason for being the way it is. A welcoming presence gives it the space to be and breathe, evolve and transform.
Holding the space means bringing your awareness to your inner world and holding it there. It’s as if you’re saying to your inner self, “I’m here and I’m staying with you.”
Hearing the essence means listening for what is longing to be heard. When something first comes forward, its message may be difficult to understand. If you keep listening for what “it” wants you to hear, the message will become clearer and clearer.
Staying in present time means not being distracted by dwelling on what happened in the past, or on fantasies or fears about the future. It means staying in touch with how you’re feeling in your body right now, even when what you’re focusing on is related to the past or the future. Whenever you find you have drifted away from the present, ask yourself, “How am I feeling in my body right now? What am I aware of right now?”
Listening focuses awareness. Awareness opens the way to effective action.