by Deborah Adeoye-Davids
“Memory is subject to a filtering process that we don’t always recognize and can’t always control. We remember what we can bear and we block what we cannot.”
— Sue Grafton
The human brain is constantly trying to fill the blind spots of our different perspectives. With past interactions for reference, it forms filters for new information that may be very useful, but could also lead to misunderstanding or missing bits of information.
Sensory filters are methods or habits developed by the brain over time to filter out unnecessary information, and take in or act on important details.
There are many positive and negative forms or physical presentations of sensory filters, and by identifying negative ones, we can improve all sensory information intake and output. By discovering or coming to terms with listening filters within ourselves, we can find ways to promote more active listening skills.
Active listening is the habit of preparing to listen, observing the main ideas and key details, and then providing relevant feedback. This is something we should all strive to have at all times, however, negative listening filters makes practicing it much harder than needed.
Some common listening filters are rehearsing; distracting oneself by preparing a response while still listening, filtering; selectively paying more attention to some bits of information, and finally, drifting; a shift of a person's attention that is caused by a part of what is being listened to. All of these filters can be alleviated by paying more attention to methods of aiding focused listening.
In 2015 a study was published by Murat Canpolat titled, “Active Listening Strategies of Academically Successful University Students.”, on the active listening skills of academically successful college-level students.
Canpolat says, in regards to making a better listening environment, that “many strategies are available such as setting objectives, preparing oneself mentally, guessing, using key concepts, and taking notes...”.
I found it interesting that guessing where a listening event might be going, could be closely linked to rehearsing, a listening filter mentioned earlier. It is as though there is an invisible switch deciding when a filter is advantageous or unhelpful. Therefore it is important to understand when to use listening filters in general, in addition to promoting positive listening filters.
The study further revealed that some of the most effective active classroom listening skills are,
“psychomotor-based strategies such as being close to the board, following along with both the head and eyes… and paying attention to gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, and stresses in speech.”,
which ultimately means using other senses or studying the speaker's other physical actions to aid listening. As well as,
“to what extent they pay attention to the lesson, their preparedness, their mood, whether they like the subject, whether they attend class on time, the desk that they sit at, and its surroundings”
the present environment around us.
Better listening is beneficial to every aspect of human interaction and communication, and for dedicated Christians on the journey of life who believe in a higher level of learning in Christ, active listening is all the more important. In order to promote active listening, some listening learning goals are: being better prepared for listening events, paying better and more focused attention to speakers, and participating in more engaging activities while finding the aspects of them worth appreciating.