As Francois de La Rochefoucauld wrote: "To listen closely and reply well is the highest perfection we are able to attain in the art of conversation." Attentive and active listening means absorbing and being able to accurately recall what the other person has said, to reach a mutual understanding. It involves genuine concern and interest for understanding a person’s point of view, without thinking about or putting forward personal opinions. Learning how to listen attentively is a vital communication skill that has many benefits for both the listener and speaker.
Actively listening to what the other person is saying reduces the chance of misunderstandings. It involves reflecting and confirming that each person can comprehend what is being said, so that the facts and concerns are accurately heard. Better mutual understanding increases the effectiveness of communication between two parties.
Willingness of Speaker to Open Up More
Attentive listening shows respect for the other person’s feelings and point of view, which encourages the individual to open up more and express further concerns. Someone who feels valued through active listening is less likely to feel judged and thus will have the confidence to develop his viewpoint and explain in detail what he feels and why.
When a person is being attentively listened to, there is less chance of conflict arising. Active listening allows a person to freely vent her feelings and concerns without interruption or contradiction -- things that can often result in unproductive arguments. It is less likely that a person will become defensive or angry.
Identifies Agreements and Disagreements
Attentive listening provides the opportunity to identify both areas of agreement and disagreement between both parties, as well as any flaws. When agreements are recognized, they can easily put disagreements into perspective and diminish their significance, making more positive and effective communication. The speaker is also more likely to identify flaws in his reasoning when he hears it recalled by the attentive listener without criticism.
Considers Different Points of View
When a person knows her opinion is being heard and acknowledged, it is likely that she will be more willing to think about an alternative point of view or soften her own argument. Considering another person’s position is often easier when personal views are respected and valued through attentive listening. Listening attentively helps both parties to gain a deeper understanding of each point of view and move forward toward a successful solution.