Effective listening is arguably one of the most important skills to have nowadays.
Personal relationships need effective listening skills to face complicated issues together.
Business people and employees need effective listening skills to solve complex problems quickly and stay competitive.
Students and professors need it to understand complex issues in their fields.
Thus, it is beneficial if we can understand and eliminate listening barriers that blocks deep, harmonious and lasting relationships.
For most people, we listen only to answer back or to have a reply, instead of listening to understand.
Effective listening, on the other hand, is not about the words having delivered, it requires more than hearing the sounds transmitted.
Effective listening encourages that we for understanding of what the other person talks about or feel. And we can do this by focusing on other the person, by thoughts and feelings and not only by words.
Barriers to Effective Listening
And to guide you on how to listen and communicate better, we have listed five (5) barriers for effective listening that we should consciously avoid or eliminate whenever we are engage in a conversation.
1. Environmental Distractions
Environmental distractions are any cause that divided attention of an individual or group from the chosen object of attention onto the source of distraction. It is the lack of ability to pay attention, lack of interest in the object of attention, or the great intensity, novelty or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external sources, and internal sources.
External distractions can include electronic gadgets like personal computers or laptops, cellular phones, music players, television, portable gaming consoles and etc. Internal distractions can be absent-mindedness, lack of interest, lack of attention, etc.
These external and internal distractions are the common barriers for effective listening. They are basic, but most of us still forget these basic stuffs, that we can observe it is common at home, in school, at work or in the community.
To eliminate this type of listening barriers, when conversing with people, put yourself in a good environmental position without external and internal distractions. Take time to stop and give your full attention to the person you are talking to. It will not only help you understand the other person better, but also, can create more meaningful and deeper relationship with them.
Another type of listening barrier is our pride or ego. Most often, we let our pride or ego to take over the conversation. We think that we are already smart enough to even listen from other people. We think that we are better from other people that we have nothing more to learn from them.
When we close ourselves and stop listening to other people, we are doomed because we stop learning. To eliminate this listening barrier, be more open-minded to listen and learn from other people. You may learn more things if you open yourself and listen. But be mindful of selective listening. Remember that you don’t have to agree with everything, but it’s helpful if you at least consider listening.
Human mind is mysterious and it can process a lot of information, especially in between conversation, even while the other party is still talking. Which is why we have the tendency to interrupt, because we assume that we already know what the other is telling us. Such behavior is cause by another listening barrier called assumptions.
Assumptions are statement that is assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn. Quiet often, when we make assumptions, we already create conclusion in our mind without even considering the thoughts and feelings of the other person. And as such, you create more gap and unresolved problems.
To resolve and eliminate this listening barrier, practice keeping an open-mind and listen before you make any assumptions. You may try putting yourself in the shoe of another so you can fully understand and feel the sentiments of the other person.
Another listening barrier to effective conversation is close-mindedness.
Close-mindedness is intolerant of the beliefs and opinions of others; stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas. When we think that we all have the answer, and that the things we know are always the right answers, then our mind will close for new ideas.
In order to eliminate this listening barrier, strive to always keep an open mind for effective listening. You will learn and build deeper relationship if you stop being close-minded.
Last type of listening barrier is defensiveness, an attitude or position of defense. It’s when we constantly protect ourselves from criticism, exposure of one’s shortcomings, or other real or perceived threats to the ego.
Defensiveness is a primal response to feeling attacked, threatened, misunderstood or disrespected. This will normally results to never ending argument, protest, denial and blaming.
To eliminate this listening barrier, remember not to view comments and criticisms as personal attack. Instead use them as a tool for personal assessment, improvement and growth.
Most of the barriers listed above give us the tendency to interfere with the speaker. Interfering the speaker also means that we don’t value what they are saying.
Tips to Effective Listening
1. Show Respect
Respect that every human beings are different. Other peoples opinions and stories may be different from ours. Showing respect is essential for effective listening.
2. Be sensitive
Sometimes people just needs someone who can listen to their problems and stories so preaching and acting like a problem expert in this situation can cause deeper problems. There will be moments you need to be a little more sensitive on what other people think and feel, especially if you want to resolve the problem or save the relationship.
Learn to leave at least a couple of seconds pause after the speaker talks before giving your reply. On the other hand, before starting a conversion, set a rule or agreement that both sides will let the other person listen first before speaking or replying. This may feel awkward or weird at first but it’s an effective way to create a good conversing environment. It will uneasy at first, but it will be much easier when it becomes a habit.
4. Listen to Understand
Most of us are listening because we want to have a good reply. This kind of attitude often give us a problem when it comes to communication. Keep in mind that the most effective conversation are the ones where we’ve used our ears more than our mouth.
Our main goal is to avoid those effective listening barriers listed above. We need to set aside our defenses, open our minds for new ideas and start listening not just with our ears but with our hearts. Because sometimes the most important message having delivered is not in the words we just heard. We need to hear the words not being said.
I hope this article have been helpful for you to become more effective in listening and conversing. If you have additional tips for effective listening, please feel free to share it with us. We will listen.