I was discussing today with a couple twitter friends about how if someone is venting/upset that it isn't always appropriate to say, "me too, here's my story". Yet, I find myself sometimes doing this. It's usually an attempt to commiserate and empathize. I also have a coaching/counseling background and I don't want to force that method on someone either, unless they request it.
I know often these people don't want advice or empathy and my story may have no bearing on what they are feeling right now. They really just want to be heard. I'm trying hard to work on listening without sounding too much like a shrink, and without also stealing their thunder. Additionally, if I don't know how to respond, I often crack jokes. Some people don't get my humor- others enjoy it; I am never sure where the line is. As someone with a chronic illness I also get so damn tired of people trying to fix me, when I often just want to rant rage and be heard.
Things I can say:
That sounds frustrating/maddening/difficult/etc
What can I do?
I'm here if you need me.
These are all things I can offer.
How can I be a better listener for you?