Designers (as humans in general) tend to carry some baggage in regards to some situations, challenges, problems, and opportunities – think of these things as shortcuts in a sense-maker's toolkit. These prior experiences, perceptions, assumptions, misconceptions, and stereotypes can restrict the amount of empathy a designer is able to build for his or her users. Assume a beginner’s mindset in order to put aside these biases, so that you can approach a design challenge afresh.
Don’t judge. Just observe and engage users without the influence of value judgments upon their actions, circumstances, decisions, or “issues.”
Question everything. Even (and especially) the things you think you already understand. Ask questions to learn about how the user perceives the world. Think about a 5-year-old who asks “Why?” a hundred times.
Be truly curious. Strive to assume a posture of wonder and curiosity, especially in circumstances that seem either familiar or frightening.
Find patterns. Look for interesting threads and themes that emerge across interactions with users.
Listen. Really. Lose your agenda and let the scene soak into your psyche. Absorb what users say to you, and how they say it, without thinking about the next thing you’re going to say.