Often, when people engage in discourse, they unintentionally default to focusing on their own thoughts. Instead of listening, they spend their time waiting for the other person to stop speaking, so they can say what’s on their mind. As a result, they don’t pay full attention to what is being said, and don’t internalize the speaker’s message or fully connect at an emotional level. Even worse, they may respond in a way that makes it plain they have not been listening, which may irritate the speaker and make them feel unheard.

This style of conversation leads easily to miscommunications, conflict, and people feeling that their thoughts and feelings are undervalued. Active listening is a useful approach when you want to create respectful conversation, where you fully understand what is being said. It often leads to improved communication, fewer disagreements, and people feeling more appreciated.