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Diversity Blog > Professional Development

Diverse Professionals Survival Skills - Active Listening (Part 1)

Diverse Professionals Survival Skills - Active Listening (Part 1)


I recall many years ago listening to an interview with a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories neighboring Israel. She said something that has stuck with me ever since: “The Minority knows more about the Majority than the Majority knows about the Majority.”

The Minority - whether it be gender-based, ethnic, religious or other - has to know more about its environment in order to survive, at a minimum. Thriving as a community is a goal worth striving for, though. Members of the Minority must always, with no exaggeration, be more aware of its surroundings than participants in the Mainstream. For survival’s sake. One of the most important skills minorities -- especially diverse professionals -- must develop is Listening. Not just hearing what’s being said to them or about them, but actively sounding out their surroundings in order to compete with others who do not have the same barriers placed in front of their development and progress. 


Listening is one of the most common and important things that we all do. It’s an absolutely critical faculty for diverse professionals, however. What the mainstream society in America calls “unconscious bias” (and what everyone else calls straight-up prejudice), makes honing listening skills mandatory for survival in any business environment.

Listening is an essential part of the interaction procedure. No matter the kind of task you do or the market where you work; it is crucial to comprehend the listening procedure, have an awareness of barriers to listening efficiently, and discover ways to listen actively.


The act of Hearing is merely the very first of 3 phases in the listening procedure, all of which are still worth however relatively apparent keeping in mind.

  •  Hearing: Simply put: sensing sounds around us without necessarily ordering the inputs.


  • Attention: Attention is crucial so that we can hear what others say to us. However, it can be challenging to understand what others communicate with us because of distractions or our preoccupations.


  • Comprehending:  While embracing what others say to us, we try to understand the context of the message and grasp the significance of any non-verbal or spoken hints from the speaker. Having a degree of background understanding concerning the topic or the speaker is likewise handy.


A variety of obstacles stop us from listening well. As a diverse professional, it is necessary to value what the restrictions are and ways to get rid of each of them. Obstacles to efficiently listening include:

  • Psychological barriers: consisting of bias, passiveness or worry on the part of the listener. Somebody working in marketing or production might not be as interested in a discussion on yearly monetary outcomes as an accounting professional or sales director, offered that it might not straight effect on their day to day activities.


  • Physical barriers, like special needs, tiredness or lousy health on the part of the listener. Attempting to listen to a speaker for long durations while you are suffering from a massive cold is hard to do.


  • Environmental barriers, consisting of disruptive sounds, unpleasant or inadequately placed seating, or an inappropriate environment such as an overheated, stuffy conference room.


  • Expectation barriers, such as expecting a dull or ordinary discussion, anxiety about getting down to the problem, or being "talked at" in a complicated or technical fashion.


You can resolve concrete barriers such as physical challenges or environmental elements at work, however, by changing rooms or seating arrangements (get to the meetings early). Handling internal blocks you place in your way can be harder, though. Extensive preparation can accomplish a great deal of this before you show up at any conferences or group sessions.

Practice can also be key to one of the best survival skills you can ever have as a diverse professional: active listening.