Usually people focus more on the speaking than they do on the listening. But to really improve your communication you need to learn to listen just as much as you need to learn to speak. Active listening is popular as one of the basic skills used in psychotherapy, coaching, interview, etc.
It is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Often when people talk to each other, they don`t listen attentively. They are often distracted, half listening, half thinking about something else. When people are engaged in a conflict, they are often busy formulating a response to what is being said. Rather than paying attention, they focus on how they can respond to win the argument.
Active listening can be a way to bring changes in people’s personal values and personal philosophies. People who are listened to in this sensitive way may learn to listen to themselves more carefully and make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking. People will listen more to each other, become more emotionally mature, more open to their experiences, less defensive, more democratic and less authoritarian.
Of course, you cannot just use active listening as a technique if your fundamental attitudes do not match its basic concepts. The basic attitude of the user is most important. If you use it as a mere means of making business advantage in a conversation with your partner your behavior will be empty and sterile and others will quickly recognize this.
Active listening means avoiding judgements and evaluation and not trying to convince people or give them advice or information to bring about a change in the direction you desire. You listen to the total meaning of what your partner says, you respond to his feelings, you also note all non-verbal communication, and you risk seeing the world from the speaker’s point of view.
Within a group of people you can improve your ability of focused listening with a short everyday training. It might be a good way to start the day with a little exercise of a few minutes of mutual listening to each other in pairs. One person speaks for an agreed period and the other one just listens with all his/her senses. After that he/she will summarize or rephrase what he/she has heard. Or you can just listen without summarizing. In any way, you will recognize a development of your empathic skills only after a short time.
If you are interested, read more on the topic in the books of the American psychotherapist Carl R. Rogers!