Primary Blog/Communication & Public Speaking/Improve Your Communication Through Active Listening Skills

Improve Your Communication Through Active Listening Skills

Thursday, April 27, 2023

As someone who makes videos about communication, I often get questions from people who’d like to learn to improve their ability to listen and comprehend what they’ve just heard. I’ve laid out some of my best strategies to improve your active listening and communication skills.

Two Parts of Listening

There are two parts of listening: the actual listening, and the comprehension. It’s important to make this distinction because you need to understand these two parts in order to improve.

Listening involves more than just hearing. Hearing is the physiological process of detecting sounds in our environment. Listening is a mental process. It’s how you get the meaning from the sounds you hear. If you’re having trouble comprehending what you hear, the breakdown is in one of these processes.

I use the term ‘breakdown’ loosely, and it can present in different ways. Maybe you’re having trouble retaining information that is being told to you. Perhaps you’re having trouble understanding the meaning of what is being said. There are two reasons you could be having these issues: focus and filter.

First Part of Listening: Filter

There are many filters that can be standing in the way of our comprehension and understanding, and we are unaware of them. They happen at the subconscious level, preventing us from active listening and comprehension. There are five subconscious filters.

The first filter is values. Our values guide how we act and behave. We listen through the filter of our own values, and everyone has different values. Whoever you are talking to is also speaking from the filter of their own values. If you’re in a group, there are also group values. Here you need to have some awareness. If you want to increase your listening skills, explore how your values are creating expectations or biases that are causing you to hear something that wasn’t what the speaker intended to convey.

The second filter is culture, which is the observed behavior of a group. It is observable and measurable. There is also individual culture and group culture. Everyone you speak to has their own culture, and when you’re communicating, it’s through the lens of your own culture.

Language is the third filter. Perhaps English is not your first language, and you’re in an environment of primarily native English speakers. Sometimes our language prevents us from being able to understand. Most of the time, however, it has nothing to do with English not being your native language. It has more to do with shared language, which has an understanding behind it. It could be an industry-specific language, or language associated with that team.

The fourth filter is attitude. What is your attitude toward what is being said? Perhaps you agree, disagree, or take it personally. Our attitude about what is being said affects our ability to understand it in the way it was intended. What is your attitude when you are communicating with others?

The final filter is intention. What do you want the outcome of this conversation to be? When you are communicating, your attention is going to be on the outcome you want. When we start a conversation with an individual or a group, we often don’t take the time to set the intentions of the conversation. That lack of intention, or differing intentions, creates the filter that prevents active listening and communication skills.

Second Part of Listening: Focus

Focus is another barrier that can be standing in the way of active listening. Focus creates attention, and where attention is, intention follows. All these factors are not independent; they go hand in hand. It is your self-awareness that will help you take your communication skills to the next level.

All around us, there is information. It’s everywhere. It can be sheer information overload when so many things are vying for our limited attention. We have texts, calls, messages, emails, and other tasks we need to do, all at the same time. It’s no surprise, then, that it can be difficult to have the focus we need to listen and communicate effectively.

Many people don’t have much interest in improving their listening skills. They want the CliffsNotes version that gets to the point right away and only tells them what they need to know. Even in the workplace, getting to the point and not wasting time has become a necessary skill set. Unfortunately, this has come at the cost of our listening skills. Focus plays a key role in why many people have challenges with active listening and understanding.

Tying it Together

Now that you know about focus and filters, now your question is likely, “How do I listen better?”

The answer depends on you. Have you identified any of the five filters where you might be having a blockage? Your strategy for improving your active listening depends on where you have identified your filters. Be aware of what areas you need to improve on in order to remove those filters.

Learning active listening and communication skills is not a one-size-fits-all, step-by-step formula. It’s deeply personal. You should now have enough awareness that you can start building your strategy to improve your listening skills.

If you need extra help, you can also visit my website for personal mentorship and career training from me, Dr. Grace Lee.

As a gift to my valuable readers like you, I have created a guide that divulges the top speaker’s success secrets on how to get your message across clearly and confidently on any platform.

Click HERE and get your free gift.

If you are interested in more material about career growth, communication skills, and critical thinking for career, check out my YouTube channel or connect with me on LinkedIn.

With gratitude from your #1 fan,

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© Mastery Insights Inc. All Rights Reserved