What are the common barriers to listening?

Common barriers to listening are:

1. Distractions

These distractions are:

Semantic distraction: The listener is confused about the actual meaning of a word, as the word has different meanings.

Physical distraction: This occurs when, for example, the air-conditioning system or microphones fail; or there is noise in the surroundings; or, someone is constantly tapping on the table with his fingers.

Mental distraction: This occurs when the listener makes himself the central character of his daydreams and forgets the speaker.

2. Pretending to Listen

This usually happens when the ‘message’ consists of material of a difficult or uninteresting nature. The listener may not want to bother to understand the message. Sometimes this may happen when he is critical of the speaker‘s looks, style of speaking, or mannerisms.

3. Defensive Listening

This kind of listening takes place when the speaker‘s views challenge the listener‘s beliefs.

4. Prejudice

The listener‘s bias, negative attitude, preconceived notions, fears, or stress adversely affect listening.

5. Constant Focus on Self

A person‘s ego may also adversely affect his listening. The Roman playwright, Terence, reveals this aspect of human nature when he says: ―My closest relation is myself.‖ A person may believe that he knows everything that the speaker is talking about and, therefore, does not need to listen.

6. Information Overload

The listener may be exposed to too many words or points and, therefore, be unable to take in everything. He should learn how to pick up the important ones, and discard the rest.

7. Thinking – Speaking Rate

The speaking rate is 125 – 150 words per minute, whereas the thinking rate is 400 words per minute. So the listener‘s mind is moving much faster than the speaker is able to speak. The extra, intervening time, before the speaker arrives at his next point, is usually spent in shifting one‘s mental focus, or in day dreaming.

8. Short Attention Span

The natural attention span for human beings is short. This is not easy to rectify, except for making a special effort to concentrate and prolong one‘s attention span.

Although all the above-mentioned factors could cause the listener to get distracted, s/he can consciously adopt certain strategies that will make her/him a good listener.

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