Causes of Inefficient Listening
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 hearing the words being delivered, and it certainly requires more than hearing the sounds transmitted.
Effective listening encourages us to understand what the other person talks about or feel. And we can do this by focusing on the other 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 you should consciously avoid or eliminate whenever you are engaged in a conversation with another person:
- Environmental Distractions: Environmental distractions are factors that divide the 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 can 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 absentmindedness, 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 often forget that these basic issues can happen 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 create more meaningful and deeper relationship with them.
- Pride: 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 to other people. We think that we are better than other people and feel 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, you have to 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 do not have to agree with everything, but it is helpful if you at least, listen to what they have to say.
- Assumptions: The human mind is mysterious and 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 since we assume that we already know what the other is telling us. Such behaviour is caused by another listening barrier called assumptions. Assumptions are statements that are assumed to be true and from which a conclusion can be drawn. Quite 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 openmind 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.
- Close-Mindedness: 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 have all the answers, 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.
- Defensiveness: This listening barrier refers to an attitude or position of defense. It is when we constantly protect ourselves from criticism, exposure of our shortcomings, or other real or perceived threats to our ego. Defensiveness is a primal response to feeling attacked, threatened, misunderstood or disrespected. This will normally lead to series of never ending arguments, protests, denials and blames. 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 with the speaker also means that we do not value what they are saying.
Becoming a Better Listener
Any attempt to develop one’s listening skills has to take into account the different types of listening and the external and internal barriers that can interfere with one’s ability to listen efficiently. One way of dealing with some of these sources of interference is to concentrate on replacing poor listening habits and listening behaviours with effective skills and behaviours. Some of these listening behaviours are:
- Show Respect: Respect that every human beings are different. Other people’s opinions and stories may be different from ours. Showing respect is essential for effective listening.
- 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.
- Pause: 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 conversation 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.
- Listen to Understand: Most of us are listening because we want to have a good reply. This kind of attitude often gives 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.
We have studied the human activity called “Public speaking”, and found out that it is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners. We also observed that in public speaking, as a any form of communication, has some basic elements, often expressed as “who is saying what to whom using what medium with what effects?”, while bearing in mind that the purpose of public speaking can range from simply transmitting information, to motivating people to act, to simply telling a story. Good orators should be able to change the emotions of their listeners, not just inform them.
Public speaking can also be considered a discourse community. Interpersonal communication and public speaking have several components that embrace such things as motivational speaking, leadership/personal development, business, customer service, large group communication, and mass communication. Indeed, Public speaking can be a powerful tool to use for purposes such as motivation, influence, persuasion, informing, translation, or simply entertaining. A confident speaker is more likely to use this as excitement and create effective speech thus increasing their overall impact.
We have been able to show you, in this unit that fear of public speaking is often due to lack of training and little or no experience in speaking in public, and an inability to evaluate or judge one’s performance. However, thorough preparation and practicing the delivery of the speech can help you to overcome your speech apprehension and give an oral presentation that is a success.
While experience helps to build confidence and improves the delivery of speeches, even the most accomplished public speakers have openly admitted that they feel a certain amount of nervousness before taking the floor. They also claim that a certain amount of “nerves” is actually a good thing becomes it keeps them “on their toes”. In an oral presentation, when you try to influence the attitudes, beliefs or values of the audience, the purpose of your speech is mainly …