7 Dec 2006

Barriers to Good Listening

Hello, I thought I should expand a bit on barriers to good listening. It will help you to spot when people are not really 'listening' to you. You may also find out if your guilty of not listening and how you give the game away.

'On-Off' Listening.
This unfortunate habit in listening arises from the fact that most of us think about four times as fast as the average person speaks. Thus, the listener has three-quarters of a minute spare thinking time for each listening minute. Sometimes we use this extra time to think of our own personal affairs, concerns, or interests and troubles instead of listening.
I know I do this, who else is guilty?
Sorry what where you saying I was thinking of what to have for my lunch.

'Red-Flag' Listening.
To some of us certain words are like the powerful red flag to the bull. When we hear them we get upset or irritated and stop listening. These terms vary with individuals. However, to some, words 'should', 'must', 'unfaithful', 'police', 'discipline', 'school', 'management', 'unions', etc are signals to which is there is an automatic response. When this signal comes we tune out the speaker.
What is your Red flag word or words?
Abuse, homophobes and Racism definitely tune me out.

'Open - Ears -Closed Mind' Listening.
Sometimes we decide rather quickly that either the subject or the speaker is boring and what is said makes no sense. Often we jump to conclusions that we can predict what he knows or what he will say: thus, we conclude, there is no reason to listen because we will hear nothing new if we do.
Uh Oh I am guilty of doing this also, I definitely have a lot to work on.
The most recent example i have of doing this was when my good friends boyfriend was talking to me and I was bored so off I went in my mind( no idea what I was thinking about), then suddenly I realised his tone of voice changed, so I said 'sorry can you say that again?' and he replied ' If I was boring you, you could of told me?'. He looked really hurt and I felt terrible. I tried to make something up, but it was too late.
So I had to be honest and say sorry no I wasn't listening, please forgive me. We talked for a little while longer. The next day my friend told me how much her boyfriend had liked me and I just was ashamed of myself.
Come on, hands up, I know guilty people when I see them.

'Glassy -Eyed' Listening
Sometimes we look at a person intently and we almost seem to be listening although our minds may be on other things or on far distant places. We drop back into the comfort of our own thoughts. We get glassy-eyed and often a dreamy expression appears on our faces. We can tell when people look at us in this way. Similarly, they can see the same in us and we're not fooling anyone.
Holy cow! I do this as well.

'Too Deep For-Me' Listening.
When we are listening to ideas that are too complex and complicated there is a danger we will 'shut-off'

This is getting depressing now, I have done this in the past.

'Matter-Over Mind' Listening.
We do not like to have our pet ideas, prejudices, and points of view overturned. We do not like to have our opinions and judgements challenged. Consequently when a speaker says something that clashes with what we think, believe, and hold firm to - then we may unconsciously stop listening or even become defensive and plan a counter -attack.
You guessed it! Guilty again.

Being 'Subject - Centred' Instead of 'Speaker- Centred'.
Sometimes we concentrate on the problem and not the person. Detail and fact about an incident become more important than what people are saying about themselves.

'Fact' Listening.
Often as we listen to people we try to remember the facts and repeat them over and over again to drive them home. As we do this, frequently the speaker has gone on to new facts and we lose them in the process.

So I am guilty of doing all the above bad examples of listening.It certainly gives you food for thought doesn't it?

Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.- Homer Simpson.


  1. I'll ... come back a little later, and walk you through the steps on how to get something like that off the web.

  2. Claire, I'm guilty of all of the avove as well too. If memory serves, we listen on average about a 25% level. Would you agree?

  3. What did you just say?

    :) I am a parent. I've got several layers of listening skills :D

  4. Someone once said that we have been given two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. To listen requires concentration and active communication skills. I once went to a therapist who would wait for me to talk, and wait, and wait, and then the session was over. How insulting! But in order to listen, you need to check in with the speaker periodically just to make sure you're on the same page. Paying attention to body langauge, energy level, themes, staying on topic, and the request for input are all important. Probably the most important aspect of all is respect. No idea or question is stupid, and as such doesn't deserve to be treated that way. No problems, only solutions. Being non-judgemental also is important. One of the big problems I have with organized religion is that while they preach non-judgemental practices-they constantly judge and try to sway you to their point of view. What are sermons for, anyway?
    Like Ghandi said-I like Christianity-I just don't like the Christians. I'll stop here before I get wound up. Nice blog-posting a link to it at

  5. Guilty to all of them. Plus the awful habit of finishing peoples sentences. I am always telling myself off. I really work on this.

    We have a friend we see quite often who has the worst stutter I have ever heard and he has caused me to learn patience to hear someone out.

    Showed my husband the bridge, he said we had driven over it.

  6. Hey rashenbo thanks for playing along!

  7. Hey blixor, thanks for coming to my blog! and linking with me! Thanks for the great answer, all knowledge of peoples experience with counsellors and therapist is good for me. I have some issues with organized religion also, but i also see the benefits people get from believing in something or someone.

  8. Hey vic grace, what a small world it is! Its good your working on it, a lot of people wouldn't bother!

  9. This is Jeni - one of your future "writing" partners. It is so good to know I am not alone in being guilty of all the "listening offenses" posted!

    My next-door neighbor -a terrific young woman, extremely bright, drives me absolutely bonkers when I try to talk with her because before I even get two-three words out in a sentence I am trying to form, she is bombarding me with a kazillion questions, not listening, or so it seems to me, to a whit of what I am trying to say or explain and all of that causes this old lady to then lose my train of thought completely, which just frustrates me all the more!

  10. This is an excellent post and I will back link to it when I publish mine. At present I'm having problems with my web host who are having problems with their servers, so my site is online and then offline. It's really frustrating but I'll definitely finish my post just as soon as I can.