Active listening is one way to increase mutual understanding between people. Often times, we aren't strategic about the way we communicate — we simply go through the motions as if we're running on autopilot.
Are you listening? It sounds simple. But frequently, we listen with the intent to to reply, not to truly understand what the other person is trying to communicate to us. David Grossman says active listening is "when you’re really able to assess and understand—listen for what’s being said and what’s not being said—and you’re really thinking about how to effectively communicate back."
It's about taking the ego out of a conversation. We shouldn't focus so much on what our reply is, but on processing and comprehending what the other person is really trying to convey. Pay attention to what's being said and what isn't, vocal tone, and body language. Active listening can improve the quality of journalistic interviews, and it can improve our professional and personal relationships.
Think about times of conflict. We can be so quick to come up with a response, which often turns into a battle of cross-complaining. If we instead take just even a few seconds to calm ourselves and process before responding, then it'll probably eliminate some regretful comments said in the heat of moment. It also gives us time to understand why the other person is responding the way they are — to practice emotional intelligence and compassion through our communication.
Sophia Bush wrote about the importance of active listening, and her words resonated with me greatly. "Learning to listen, truly listen, changes everything. It ignites our passion for the world around us. It makes us feel empowered, in awe, humbled, and inspired. It's not about a reply, it's about learning, growing, and being set alight. Listening changes everything."