The 4 Barriers to Effective Listening


Listening is one of the most prominent activities in our daily lives.  In fact, with the exception of breathing, there is nothing we do more frequently than listen.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t listen as well as we could.  Research indicates that the average person forgets 50% of what they hear within seconds of a conversation.  Within two days, we lose 75% and a week after a conversation, we have lost over 90% of what was discussed.  This occurs because of the four barriers to effective listening that we encounter on a regular basis:

1.  A natural tendency to want to speak first and focus on our own agenda.  This gets in the way of our ability to really hear and understand the other person.  

2.  Negative perceptions regarding the speaker and/or topic.  If you lack enthusiasm for either your communication partner or the subject matter, your ability to listen can be severely limited.

3.  Our ability to think much faster than someone can speak.  Each of us has the ability to process words 4-5 times faster than a person can speak them.  This can lead to impatience on part of the listener if their communication partner is not making his or her points quickly enough.

4.  Emotional, external, internal and cultural noise.  Noise is anything that interferes with the accurate transmission of information between a speaker and listener.  Emotional noise consists of words that arouse strong emotions in us and thereby limit our communication effectiveness.  External noise involves distractions that take place around us and take our attention away from the speaker.  Internal noise consists of distractions taking place within us, such as having our mind on something else or being in a rush, which take our attention away from the speaker.  Finally, cultural noise involves distractions caused by the cultural differences between two people.  For example, communication between two individuals whose primary languages are different creates problems and makes it more difficult to accurately transmit messages between the communication partners.

NEXT POST – October 15, 2008:

Become a Better Listener: Part 1

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