Considered by many scholars to be the most comprehensive source on mediation, Christopher W. Moore in The Mediation Process describes the steps to active listening in the following manner.
First, the mediator must listen to what the party is saying and determine the emotion the party is feeling. Is it frustration? Anger? Fear?
Second, select the word or words that reflect what the interviewee is feeling. Care must be taken not to minimize the feeling or blow it out of proportion. Disempowering the interviewee will also be counterproductive so saying “You are feeling really weak and helpless…” is not a good strategy.
Third, tell the interviewee what you have heard in the words and language selected. If more than one emotion is being expressed give feedback as to all the emotions.
Fourth, wait for the response from the party. Be patient and do not fill the silence with more from your own mouth. The response will either confirm the accuracy of the emotion expressed or provide further clarification of those feelings.
Fifth, if the emotions are confirmed encourage the party to talk more about those feelings.
SIxth, if the mediator has not accurately understood the emotions being expressed obtain further clarification from the interviewee. In essence, start over again at the top of this list.
Finally, it may take several attempts to accurately describe the emotion felt and do not be afraid to spend the time and effort necessary to accurately understand what is going on. Do not, however, force this process on the interviewee. If you encounter resistance, move on.
Like most skills, active listening takes practice. It may very well be the most important skill a mediator can possess for resolving disputes. Let me know if you have any questions.