To listen, unbiased and without interrupting can be challenging, and at times, downright difficult. Attentive and balanced listening is not easy because it requires our willingness and focus to absorb the information; remember that listening is a conscious activity. Let’s take a look at some of the main barriers to balanced listening;
The listening process is corrupted when we allow our emotions to surface and get involved in our communication. For example, anger, defensiveness, and frustration are often felt when listening to someone we disagree with or simply dislike. We may not appreciate the way the person is speaking to us or we may not be in the mood to listen. When we allow our emotions to guide the listening process, the message is distorted and so will likely be our decisions and subsequent actions.
This is when we unilaterally pick and choose what we want to listen to. It is a form of editing. The disadvantage of selective listening is the risk of potentially missing out on some important and valid information. This may affect our ability to understand since we are not getting all the pertinent information. As such, there is no room for selective listening in the communication process. We must force ourselves to focus on ALL the information presented, even if we don’t like or agree with it.
Time is a precious commodity. We often claim that we don’t have the time to listen. Deadlines to be met, fires to put out, emergencies to be dealt with seem to be the main reasons given to others, and ourselves. The rhetorical question is “is it that we don’t have the time, or is it that we don’t take the time” to listen?
The first step to removing barriers to attentive and balanced listening is to understand the negative effects of our emotions and refrain from allowing them to affect or corrupt the way we listen. The second step is to force ourselves to listen to all the information given. We must fight our natural tendency to choose only “what we want to hear”. Remember, there is no room for selective listening when our objective is to communicate effectively. The third and last step is to take the time to listen. Don’t forget that listening is a conscious activity; we must WANT to listen.
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