It happens to all of us. We scroll through our smartphones while somebody is speaking to us. Or sit hunched over a laptop watching a Netflix show, oblivious of a conversation going on around us.
All of us are guilty of being distracted and not listening often. We are surrounded by active listening barriers that prevent us from listening with focus and concentration. These barriers to effective listening can often lead to inaccurate assumptions and conclusions about what the speaker is saying.
Great listening skills in the workplace can make a big difference. The ability to listen actively without active listening barriers allows us to absorb information and understand it so we can use it effectively at work.
How can you overcome these listening barriers in your personal and professional life? You can use the EAR—or Empathy, Authenticity, and Respect—of Listening framework from Harappa’s Listening Actively course. These three traits will help you become a better listener and overcome active listening barriers.
Barriers to effective listening
Let’s looks at some major barriers to listening skills that you can work on:
Distraction or daydreaming
From a person walking by to email popping up on your computer screen, anything can be a listening barrier that distracts you. Paying attention becomes particularly difficult if you are a daydreamer. Moreover, multitasking is often one of the biggest barriers to active listening.
Making assumptions during any communication is one of the barriers to listening. Let’s say your boss calls you into their office and has a stern look on their face. Your mind starts racing and you think you’re going to get reprimanded for missing your deadline. If you begin justifying your actions without listening to what your boss is saying, you risk making an assumption. Other common assumptions may be hearing a few words and assuming you understand what a speaker is talking about.
Looking only through your ‘lens’
Have you ever watched a debate on TV? All the guests come with their points of view. And during the whole show, they put forward their points aggressively. Why? Because they are looking at the situation only through their ‘lens’, which can also be one of the barriers to listening skills.
Most of us fall prey to such situations, which prove to be barriers to effective listening. We don’t look at where the other person is coming from but only look at things through our lens. This often leads to misunderstandings between people.
Memory and comparison
Comparison and memory are among the major listening barriers. Let’s say you’re watching a movie or listening to a colleague recount a project-related experience. However, your mind runs to a similar situation in the past and distracts you from listening and understanding the other person’s perspective.
Making what the other person is saying about you
It’s important to remember that when someone speaks to you, they are sharing their perspective. As a listener, it is your job to listen patiently and understand what the other person is trying to say. However, sometimes one can get very affected by the other person’s speech and may consider it a personal attack or have strong opinions about it. Making what the other person is saying about you is a barrier to active listening.
Are any of these barriers stopping you from being an active listener? Remember, improving your listening skills is critical for success at work. The first step is to identify any unconscious habits that are barriers to effective listening and adopt good listening habits instead.
Make sure you’re not distracted or multitasking when you’re listening to someone. Put away your cellphones and laptops so you can focus on a discussion or a conversation.
And the next step would be to overcome barriers to active listening with guidance from industry experts. And how can you do that? It’s simple. By signing up for Harappa’s Listening Actively course. Join the course now.
Explore topics such as Active Listening, How to Improve Listening Skills, Qualities of a Good Listener, Listening Process and the Principles of Effective Listening from our Harappa Diaries blog section to ace your soft skills.