Mary Hodder's post about listening at Blogher reminded me of sometihng I read in a psychology book years ago. The author, Carl Rogers, (Whom I can't remember -- I love middle age, I really do.) wrote that being open and listening to someone else can fundamentally change one's own views and actions. It takes effort, sometimes. for me to put aside what I think and listen to you. But it's crucial if I'm going to learn anything from what you say, and also if we're to make progress on collective tasks.
P.M. Forni's book Choosing Civility devotes a chapter to listening and provides suggestions on how to be a better listener. I posted a summary of those rules here in response to a Dave Pollard post on communication. Forni's final words on listening are worth repeating here:
Human beings want someone to listen to them. In the midst of a culture that glorifies indulgent self-expression, we may find it difficult to attend patiently to the words of others. It may not occur to us that when we find the strength to engage in considerate listening we are in fact expressing ourselves. At our best.
I think that one reason conferences and workshops need ample unstructured time is so that we can listen to each other informally and in small groups.