The top 3 barriers to effective listening are distractions, misinterpretations and attachment to personal beliefs and values.
These barriers can prevent you from getting or understanding the message you are hearing.
We get distracted by what is going on outside (our surroundings) and inside ourselves.
What’s outside that distracts us while trying to listen to someone? Noises, temperature, or what other people are saying or doing.
What’s inside that distracts us from listening to someone? Thoughts, thoughts and more thoughts. Thoughts as memories, judgments, opinions, expectations, worries, fears. Even thoughts about thoughts.
Both, internal and external distractions can be overcome by directing your attention to the speaker. You can learn improve your focus by doing exercises to improve your mindfulness
Our personal beliefs and values are dear to us; they're an integral part of our point of view. We tend to find facts and evidence that support our views and we dismiss anything that weakens them.
Over time we find that we’ve developed a strong bond to our point of view, we may be proud of our views and defend them if need be. Sometimes we may get into arguments with people that have a different point of view. At best, we may judge them for not knowing better; at worst, we may try to persuade them to view things our way.
Having a strong bond to our point of view is among the toughest barriers to effective listening. When people are expressing a different point of view, we may be thinking how wrong they are, or what we’ll say to convince them of our truth, or we may get defensive about them trying to convince us of their truth.
Overcoming this barrier to listening is straightforward: Reduce or eliminate any strong attachments to your point of view; consider your point of view just one view among many. Be curious about others’ point of views and the reasons why they hold them. Replace attachment with curiosity, your listening will improve dramatically.
When we add an interpretation to what someone's saying or doing, we introduce possible errors in communication. When the message is clear and obvious, our interpretation may be correct, and we feel justified in continue to interepret what others say. We may even congratulate ourselves in being so good at guessing what others’ intentions are behind the words they say.
Case in point: An executive I know told me recently that she knew she was "invisible" to the CEO. I asked her why. She said: “because when I ran into him at the hallway, he didn’t say hi to me.” then she added: "and I'm very good at reading people". Perhaps the CEO was deep in thought that day, or mad at her. Or perhaps he tends to be aloof. Or perhaps she is invisible to him.
We don’t know what's the real reason for the CEO not greeting the executive on that day, unless we ask him. Even then we may not get the complete truth, but at least we will be closer to it.
To overcome this barrier to listening, get in the habit of asking for clarification on matters that are important to you. We can interpret on everyday matters, but it’s best to make sure we get the right interpretation on more important matters.
• When you find yourself getting distracted with either internal or external noise, pay attention by being mindful.
• When you discover any attachment to your point of view, ease up on the attachment or completely let go of it. Become curious about other points of view.
• When a speaker says something unclear, avoid misinterpretations by asking the speaker what he meant.
Now you know the top 3 barriers to effective listening,
...and you also know how to overcome them.