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Understanding what is being said is an important aspect of Listening Skills. One who can Comprehend the meaning and message of what is being heard can return the communication with more accuracy. In the 21st century skills, listening leads the race as this has become a rare thing to see in people.

Basics for Listening Comprehension

Discussion on Listening Skills-Guidelines to Listen Better

Listening and Reading become real only when the ‘Communicator’ contributes with careful attention.

It is not just hearing or viewing the linguistic codes imprinted on the paper; rather it is the ‘ability to reflect’ upon what we have understood.

Our comprehension of a text or a speech is successful when we do the ‘add-on’ act. It means that based on our receptive activity, we develop our expressive capability. One has to relate the comprehended content with the already read or to be read texts. It is about using the understood text further by sharing the understood-cum-reflected version. Receptive Communication is the first happening in learning. Communication Skills have been credited to Receptive and Expressive Communication.

The Four Skills of Communication are:

  • Listening Skills
  • Speaking Skills
  • Reading Skills
  • Writing Skills

Our concern in this article is Comprehension Skills- Listening as well as Reading, however, we need to know listening first. The skills that are related to Listening and Reading are:

  • Note Taking in Listening as well as in Reading
  • Summarising and Paraphrasing
  • Scanning and Skimming Reading Techniques
  • Intensive and Extensive Reading Techniques

Listening is defined as ‘a thoughtful attention paid to what is said’.  It is not a passive act of hearing alone, rather concentering on the articulated sounds stands for listening. It happens only when the receiver in the communication process wants to attend to or get influenced.  Speaking takes a lion’s share in our life i.e. 52%, leaving 32% to hear. Reading and Writing enjoy 9% & 7% weightage respectively.  Listening has long been acknowledged as a primary management tool.

Listening Comprehension:

Listening Comprehension can be understood as thoughtful attention paid to what is being said and it also demands an understands that facilitates retention of the listened content. Listening is a challenging activity as it is a live act and the listener needs to comprehend in the real moment. – EklavyaParv

In the academic learning requirement, listening comprehension is to be taught-learned as a technique to ‘Receive-Retain-Record-Reflect’.  

The Process of Listening: (As explained by P.D. Chaturvedi & Mukesh Chaturvedi)

  • Undivided Attention
  • Hearing
  • Understanding
  • Interpreting
  • Evaluating
  • Conceptualising

Listening-the forgotten art- is divided into various types, based on the treatment a listener gives to it. The Types of Listening are as follows:

Attentive Listening: When the listener concentrates and makes notes to be used for further learning. This is called actual listening. There is coordination between the mind and the notebook. The Attentive Listener pays full attention and is not swayed away by temporary interruptions. There are no preoccupations and bias towards the speaker. In Attentive Listening, the retained amount is the maximum and the listeners are able to comprehend the text in the intended sense. Attentive listening enables further discussions and sharing of learning.

Reflective Listening: When the listened content creates reflections in the mind of the listener and takes the mind to a different level of thinking. In simple words, reflective listening is a dangerous state when the listener needs to pay full attention and the heard information generates associated feelings and thoughts. It creates introspection and sometimes takes away attentive listening. The speaker has to take care of the words and references that can produce reflective listening. There is no negative quality to it, but it is not required in academic and business listening.

Selective Listening: You are in a lecture and the professor is taking attendance by calling the roll numbers. Our mind comes into ‘attention’ mode only when our turn to speak is about to come. We become ‘selfish’ or to say rightly- we become ‘selective listeners’. The listener is preoccupied with the belief that the complete speech is not of worth and I need to ‘retain’ only a selected segment. All is heard, but thoughtful attention is paid only to selected words.

Pretended Listening: ‘I may not be listening to you at all, but I need to make you believe that I am’. This is well known to us that we sometimes avoid listening to a complete lecture/speech or we take our attention away for a while. Yet, the observer or the speaker is not aware that we deviated from the worthy words. The mechanism of nodding heads, taking (engraving) ‘fake’ notes and keeping the smart expressions convey that one has been paying full attention. The reality is otherwise contrary. This is Pretended Listening and is not recommended in formal situation. The words are worthy to be listened to, whenever-wherever they are spoken.

Listening Skills: Barriers and Ways to Enhance Listening Comprehension

If I don’t want to listen to you, you can’t make me do. Other than this simple pronouncement, there are certain barriers that can be checked to a significant extent by the participation of the speaker and listener. These barriers correspond to Barriers to Communication in general. But a dedicated discussion on the hurdles to better listening can be more fruitful. It is a ‘voluntary’ activity and can easily be affected by ‘internal and external factors, such as:

  • Lack of Concentration: Unequal Statuses of Participants- Organisational Set-up is not ‘Supportive’
    • Hearing Faster than Speaking
    • Paying Attention to the Speaker and not to the Speech
    • Listening too Closely
  • The Mental Locks/Preoccupations/Psychological Fixations
  • Psychological Complexes in the Mind of the Listeners or Speaker
  • Poor Retention
  • Premature Evaluation and Hasty Conclusions
  • Focusing on Selected Segments, rather than the Whole Speech
  • Biased Presentation of the Matter by a Speaker
  • Cultural and Language Barriers
  • Resistance to Change Point of View (By the Listener)
  • Organisational Facilities in the Listening Activity- Infrastructural as well as Technical

How to Enhance Listening Comprehension Skills

  • Take Notes: A Listeners must be respectful to the ‘reinforcements’ done by the speaker. On the personal level, we should listen and do what is being conveyed. On the academic and professional levels, one should be prompt to ‘Take Notes’ of the highlighted idea. Whenever the speaker repeats something, writes it on the board or mentions the terms in a slide on the screen, speaks it with special effort- the listener should take note of the same. These are the dots that need to be connected to create a comprehensive understanding after the speaker has departed. We need to remember that Note Making happens only when Note Taking has been done. You cannot Recall-or make a note to someone-unless you have not NOTED it.

Note Taking Techniques are so integral to Comprehension Skills, especially listening that avoiding them makes recall and retention poor in most contexts.

  • Avoid Selective Listening and Focus on the Content: A rational mind will not get preoccupied with the selections or deviations. Attentive Listening should be done and the focus should be on the content, not on the speaker. However, the speaker must be respected as a person, not at the cost of content though.
  • Separate the Ideas from the Speaker and do not indulge in biasness by relating the content with the context, cast-colour-religion-region-race of the listener. It does not mean that the presence or the character of the speaker is of no importance. It suggests the removal of mental locks against the deserving speakers.
  • Heard Melodies are Sweet, but Those Unheard are Sweeter: When a speaker articulates his thoughts, there are so many connotations to be ‘heard’ by us. Do listen to the expressions-feelings-tone-pitch-voice modulations-and intentions. “Listen to what is left Unsaid.’ Use your eyes as well.
  • Don’t get carried away by the ‘emotive content’: In professional as well as academic listening, one has to remember that getting too emotional can reduce or ruin the objective of comprehending the content.
  • Don’t be a Saint: A Listener is not required to be a sponge of the speaker. Too much concentration often results in less comprehended material. Be attentive but keep your mind free to reflect on your own.
  • Think with the Speaker (not like the speaker) and empathise.
  • Responsible Listening: It is an ethical term when we ask for responsible behaviour. However, without being a good listener, one cannot become a good speaker.

Listening Comprehension is about improving your listening skills and becoming an attentive listener. It is an integral skill of Receptive and Expressive Communication Skills.

I must conclude by hailing ‘Listening’ as the ‘Master Art’. It is more challenging than reading as I previously said here. I cannot think of underlining or highlighting the spoken words or the sound waves. They are ‘virtually visible to my ears’ and once articulated and once missed by me is a ‘gone word’. Everything in life doesn’t have a ‘Play Again’ button. Unlike reading, listening is not visibly documented. The book in your possession won’t mind if you missed two-three sentences and you can read them again- all to your convenience. Listening- if you don’t listen to me, I can see that and will mind the negligence-even to a single word.

Let’s Celebrate Listening!

Read the Blog: Listening - A Forgotten Art

About the Author
Author: Parveen Sharma Website:
'You Create Yourself' is the belief that drives EklavyaParv! It is a Life Long Learning Mission with firm belief in the philosophy of Eklavyaism. We share learning on Communication Skills, EdTech, Life Skills, Blended & Innovative Learning and Insights about Career, Skills and Lifelong learning. Founded by Parveen Sharma, EklavyaParv is part of various pioneering initiatives like EduSoMedia, EduPodcasts, PodMOOCs and Skill-ogy. He is a faculty of English, Communication Skills with globally acknowledged expertise in EdTech and Innovative Teaching. You can listen to his podcasts on all leading platforms.