Common barriers to effective listening

We all are well aware of the importance of effective communication in our different aspects of life. Whether at work, in-home or at a social circle, effective communication leads you to desired outputs.

When it comes to verbal communication, a combination of dialogues between the speaker and the listener, people are mostly found highly impressed by the role of the speaker and are found anxious to sharpen their speaking skills. I personally came across with the individuals, outlining the benefits of being a powerful and effective speaker. I, however, do not deny the importance of being a profound speaker, but, do highlight the fact that “you can not be a good speaker unless you become a good listener.”

If you dig deep the world around you, you will see many hiccups in boss-employee contact, personal relationships, social life, etc and with deep insight, you will deem the root cause to be in-effective listening.

I remember my spiritual mentor used to say “Allah SWT has given you two ears and one tongue,…try to interpret the hidden message in it”…i.e. to listen more and to speak less. Here, ‘less’ means to avoid clumsy words being spoken out. Came across an excellent quote of Dr. Stephen Covey “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” That’s true indeed. It’s a grave barrier among many others which lead us to in-effective listening.

Falling prey to troublesome barriers, we experience poor listening which encounters the mentioned failures and drawbacks. If these barriers are treated timely, one can effectively transmit the message and can retrieve a win-win situation.

1. Failing to make eye contact:

It’s one of the major mistakes committed by a listener. Losing eye contact with the convener, while listening, leads you to ineffective focus, which contributes to poor listening. On the other side of the coin, the convener, being felt ignored, lose his interest in speaking, and thus the message to be delivered suffer pit holes, leaving your communication with unhealable wounds.

2. Having a prejudice attitude:

That’s what happens when the speaker hails from an arch rival country, an anti-group or the opposing community. The listener, showing prejudice attitude (sometimes unconsciously), gets unable to listen effectively, resulting in the incorrect receiving of the message.

3. Not stopping what you are doing:

Many of us continue to listen while being engaged in other tasks. Our mind, being diverted, results in improper listening. Not only this, it shows an unethical note to the speaker as well.

4. Mentally moving ahead of the speaker:

While listening, we sometimes judge the draft being delivered by the convener before he finishes. Quite absurd it is, that a speech is not completed yet, and we conclude it on our own. This leads to inappropriate communication.

5. Dented interruptions:

I consider it as ‘the mother of all the barriers’ ineffective listening. When we interrupt the speaker while he is not done, this not disables you only to understand, but also distracts the speaker, keeping him from effectively conveying the message he has to share.

6. Listening and interpreting at the same time:

I attended workshop years back, where lead trainer conveyed a catalytic message “Our brain cannot listen and comprehend at the same time…most of us try to do both tasks together and end up a mishap”. It’s an excellent lesson to learn. Trying to listen, interpret and comprehend at the same time makes our brain to transmit the information incompletely and incorrectly, ending up another powerful barrier. It is, therefore, recommended first to listen to the message ‘completely’ then interpret and comprehend it likewise before you finally move to respond.

These common barriers once tackled dexterously you can improve your listening, substantially.

Stay blessed,

Engr. Muhammad Masood Riaz

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