Overcoming Roadblocks to Effective Listening

DistractionsInternal distractions arise from your own mind or body

External distractions arise from your surroundings or from other people

Both types of distractions cause you to lose focus on what a speaker is saying
EmotionsBoth positive and negative emotions can cause you to listen selectively, hearing only what reinforces your current mood
SpeechThree types of speech can prevent effective listening

Attacking speech criticizes, blames, or interrogates your conversation partner

"You" statements are a form of attacking speech that assign blame and tend to generalize about the behavior of the person addressed

Speech that exerts power over others includes commands and threats

To overcome distractions, you

  • identify the types of distractions to which you're most susceptible
  • determine the impact and cost of each type of distraction, as well as how often it typically affects your ability to listen well, and
  • plan how to minimize or eliminate distractions

To control emotions, you

  • identify your emotional responses and their triggers so that you can gain control over these
  • determine your own purposes and those of the speaker in a given communication, and
  • withhold judgment and instead cultivate an attitude of patience, tolerance, and empathy

To prevent speech roadblocks, you

  • avoid attacking statements or volleys of questions that blame, criticize, or interrogate
  • use "I" statements rather than "you" statements to communicate your feelings, and
  • avoid unnecessary use of commands and instead phrase requests politely, giving the recipient room to respond