Unfortunately, in today’s world people have lost the desire and the patience to listen to what others have to say. Most of us are too engrossed in our own thoughts, too eager to have our own say to actually pay attention.
However, listening is very important. Not only does developing your listening skills allow you to gain access to the complete information and make you much less likely to misunderstand or misinterpret things, but it will also help you to work well with others.
Effective listening is not as easy as it sounds, though, and there are several factors that can affect how well you can listen to and understand others. To help you recognise these, I’ve made a list of the 5 most common barriers to effective listening and how to overcome them.
1) DistractionsThe most obvious and probably the most significant barriers to listening in today’s world are various distractions. Sadly, many of us can’t seem to be part of a conversation without constantly glancing at our phone or laptop. Not only is it considered impolite, but it also tells the other person that you’re bored and whatever is on your phone is more important to you than this conversation.
As you’re distracted, you’re also likely to miss important points or information that you might need in the future. When you’re having a conversation with someone, it’s best to keep these distractions away and focus on the person in front of you.
2) NoiseAnother major barrier to communication is noise. Trying to communicate in loud environments is highly ineffective, not to mention nearly impossible. Even if you can manage to communicate with a large amount of background noise, you won’t be able to understand much or have a good, meaningful discourse. In situations like this, it’s always better to either defer the conversation or move it somewhere quieter.
The issue of background noise is especially common during telephone conversations. For example, many people think they can tackle important conversations while they’re commuting. In most cases, however, the noise levels are too high for effective communication, not to mention the fact that it can cause strain to the person on the other end as well.
3) InterruptionsThe fact that nothing good comes from interrupting someone while they’re speaking is one of those cardinal rules of communication we’re all taught as children. Unfortunately, that lesson doesn’t tend to stick. People are so eager to be heard that sometimes they interrupt conversations to state their own opinion.
However, not only is it considered rude, but it’s also one of the biggest barriers to effective listening. To avoid making this mistake, try to wait until the other person has finished talking before saying your own ideas out loud.
4) PrejudicePrejudice can cloud your judgement and make you turn a blind eye towards valuable information or good people. When you live and work in a multicultural environment, it’s vital to leave all your prejudices behind when you’re communicating with others.
For example, if you assume a person is unintelligent (or even less intelligent than you) because of the country of his origin, you’re blinding yourself. You need to give everyone the benefit of doubt and listen to what they have to say.
5) Lack of interestOften times, we find ourselves trapped in a conversation that simply can’t hold our interest. In such cases, we’ll be tempted to drift off in our own thoughts or focus on something else – which, unfortunately, can be a barrier to listening.
Of course, it’s not really a good idea to force your attention on a topic you find dreadfully boring. If the discussion isn’t important, steer the conversation to a different direction. If it is important, however, try to focus on the relevant points and note them down.
Could you mention any other common barriers to effective listening and how we can overcome them? Make sure to leave a comment below with your ideas.