Did you ever get the feeling that a piece of wood gives you more listening attention than a human being? You are desperately trying to talk to someone about something rather important, and you see their eyes watching the people walk by around you. Sometimes they even start talking to someone else! This is NOT a sign of a good listener! And it doesn't stop there. Sometimes they'll even tell you that they "have to go" or completely change the subject
In fact, people like the one I described above aren't just bad listeners, but they can actually elevate your stress and frustration levels way beyond what you originally felt. You get very offended by people like this, because it's as if what you are talking about isn't important or 'not a good enough story' for their particular liking. I have come across this all too often in friendships, and it is very upsetting. It can really hurt your feelings. So how can we decipher whether they are the shallow folk I mentioned above, or an actual 'good listener'?
Eye contact. If they are actually looking at you, it usually means that they are listening and taking it all in. That is a good sign. However, often times we cannot see the person we are talking to. We are conversing either on-line, or on the telephone. So how do we know then? The best way to tell is by their communication back to you. If you are explaining a situation to them and they ask important questions and reciprocate things back to you, that is an actual conversation and another very good sign. And, the 'follow-up'. If they bring it up to you the next time, you talk to them, and remember most of it, that is a very good listener. More importantly, it is someone who actually cares enough about you to remember the things you said to them.
There are a lot of rude people out there, and careless ones at that. I have even been in such distress that I have poured my feelings out to the wrong people, and they've hung up on me, and even fallen asleep on me. -That is a low-blow.
So, unfortunately, the best way to know if you have a good listener on your hands is to make sure they don't match any of the criteria I mentioned as a bad listener. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad people for their ignorance, but if they can't even listen and help out a friend in despair, are they really a good friend at all, or just an acquaintance?
Your words are worth listening to. Some people out there make up problems for themselves and just complain so people hear them. To those, it is okay to drift a little. But if you're actually talking to someone looking for a friend to listen, as I normally am, everything you say is golden and someone should actually be listening.