The word “actively” might suggest that actively listening is different to plain old listening. In truth, there are only two states when we are communicating with another person: actively listening, and not really listening.
Active listening is the art of listening for meaning. For us to gain meaning from the words of another person, we need to be listening carefully. Meaning is not necessarily assured even when we are actively listening, but we will at least know that we don’t understand, and can therefore ask the correct questions to gain enlightenment.
Active listening must become a habit because it is the foundation of effective communication. Imagine a troop commander not really listening to his orders and attacking the wrong target. A failure to actively listen can certainly have dire consequences.
Active listening focuses attention on the speaker. It involves the listener subjugating their own needs for a while in deference to those of the listener. It requires concentration and a genuine willingness to hear what is being said.
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