There are many key elements to effective communication but the first one is to learn and to understand how to listen effectively. Many people believe that, in a conversation, they are of course listening, but this isn't always the case. We often think we are listening to the other person, but in effect we are not truly hearing what the other person is trying to tell us. This is because other things are going on with us. We may feel we are doing the right thing in preparing our next response, trying to anticipate what the other person is going to say, perhaps even imagining the end of the conversation and our goals around that (including moving on to our next task!) but all of this activity is clouding the arena for discourse, and needs to be cleared.
An atmosphere needs to be created where the respondent feels safe and comfortable and welcome, and our minds have to be cleared and open and receptive to what may be new and crucuial information. Assertive listening could include positive body language (nodding, smiling where appropriate, prompts such as 'go on, you're doing well' or stopping making notes to make eye contact with the person) and open warm gesturing. Careul notes should be taken where appropriate but as unobtrusively as possible. To give time for good responses, it is useful to paraphrase responses as you go along, to give the respondent confidnece that you have heard correctly and understood their point of view. Communication channels will then be opened and progress can be made.