People who are afraid or angry often misinterpret the words of others to make them fit their own belief system. They are not interested in what the other person really means, they are only interested in being justified for their own beliefs. You may hear this in news reports or political debates where someone takes a sentence out of context and builds a campaign around their interpretation of the sentence and pass it off as truth. This also happens in interpersonal relationships and usually leads to communication breakdown. “Ain’t no point in talking when there’s nobody listening” sang Rod Stewart in Young Turks.
Active listening skills can improve personal and professional relationships, increase self esteem, resolve conflicts peaceably, and open hearts and minds. Invitations to elaborate (“tell me more”) and open ended questions (“what happened next?”) indicate a desire to understand and invite more honest communication, increasing the odds of avoiding conflict in the first place. People want to be heard. Agreeing with some (however small) part of truth in another’s statement lets them know you are really listening. Articles and video clips on attentive listening abound on the internet and July 18 has been declared World Listening Day; let’s celebrate with open ears.
“You have two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly.” Stephen Covey, author of 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'