Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. This is a€?Barriers to Effective Listeninga€?, section 5.2 from the book A Primer on Communication Studies (v. This content was accessible as of December 29, 2012, and it was downloaded then by Andy Schmitz in an effort to preserve the availability of this book. PDF copies of this book were generated using Prince, a great tool for making PDFs out of HTML and CSS. For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. helps people like you help teachers fund their classroom projects, from art supplies to books to calculators. Environmental factors such as lighting, temperature, and furniture affect our ability to listen. Physiological noise, like environmental noise, can interfere with our ability to process incoming information.
Aside from the barriers to effective listening that may be present in the environment or emanate from our bodies, cognitive limits, a lack of listening preparation, difficult or disorganized messages, and prejudices can interfere with listening.
Our ability to process more information than what comes from one speaker or source creates a barrier to effective listening.
The difference between speech and thought rate connects to personal barriers to listening, as personal concerns are often the focus of competing thoughts that can take us away from listening and challenge our ability to concentrate on othersa€™ messages. Another common barrier to effective listening that stems from the speech and thought rate divide is response preparation.
Media multitasking specifically refers to the use of multiple forms of media at the same time, and it can have positive and negative effects on listening.Fleura Bardhi, Andres J.
Media multitasking can also give people a sense of control, as they use multiple technologies to access various points of information to solve a problem or complete a task. What strategies do you or could you use to help minimize the negative effects of media multitasking?
Should laptops, smartphones, and other media devices be used by students during college classes?
We exhibit prejudice in our listening in several ways, some of which are more obvious than others. The previously discussed barriers to effective listening may be difficult to overcome because they are at least partially beyond our control. Conversations unfold as a series of turns, and turn taking is negotiated through a complex set of verbal and nonverbal signals that are consciously and subconsciously received.
Unintentional interruptions can still be considered bad listening if they result from mindless communication.
EavesdroppingA bad listening practice that involves a planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation. Eavesdropping entails intentionally listening in on a conversation that you are not a part of.
Aggressive listeningA bad listening practice in which people pay attention in order to attack something a speaker says.
Although Summera€™s initial response to Deba€™s idea is seemingly appropriate and positive, she asks the question because she has already planned her upcoming aggressive response.
Narcissistic listeningSelf-centered and self-absorbed listening in which listeners try to make the interaction about them. My boss has been really unfair to me lately and hasna€™t been letting me work around my class schedule. Narcissistic listeners, given their self-centeredness, may actually fool themselves into thinking that they are listening and actively contributing to a conversation. Environmental and physical barriers to effective listening include furniture placement, environmental noise such as sounds of traffic or people talking, physiological noise such as a sinus headache or hunger, and psychological noise such as stress or anger. Cognitive barriers to effective listening include the difference between speech and thought rate that allows us a€?extra rooma€? to think about other things while someone is talking and limitations in our ability or willingness to concentrate or pay attention. Interruptions that are unintentional or serve an important or useful purpose are not considered bad listening.
Distorted listening occurs when we incorrectly recall information, skew information to fit our expectations or existing schemata, or add material to embellish or change information. Eavesdropping is a planned attempt to secretly listen to a conversation, which is a violation of the speakersa€™ privacy. Aggressive listening is a bad listening practice in which people pay attention to a speaker in order to attack something they say. Narcissistic listening is self-centered and self-absorbed listening in which listeners try to make the interaction about them by interrupting, changing the subject, or drawing attention away from others. Pseudo-listening is a€?fake listening,a€? in that people behave like they are paying attention and listening when they actually are not. We are capable of thinking faster than the speed at which the average person speaks, which allows us some room to put mental faculties toward things other than listening. Listening skills are perhaps the most important communication skill one can acquire and master. Before we delve into the subject of becoming a better listener, let’s answer a question that is usually asked. We hear words with our auditory system and we listen to complete messages using our cognitive functions: attention, memory, thinking and reasoning. The most common barriers to being a good listener are distractions, misinterpretations and attachment to our opinions. Overcoming these barriers is straightforward and can be the biggest step in helping you communicate better with others in your life. There are several degrees of active listening that range from merely repeating what the speaker said, to paraphrasing, to reflecting (mirroring what the speaker said using your own words). By reading and understanding the various levels you can listen at, and by practicing the recommended exercises, your can become a skilled listener and a skilled communicator. A person that knows how to listen is someone who enjoys the fruits of meaningful and close relationships with others. When you truly and actively listen to someone, you give that person a precious and sought after gift: attention. See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed. A room that is too dark can make us sleepy, just as a room that is too warm or cool can raise awareness of our physical discomfort to a point that it is distracting. This is considered a physical barrier to effective listening because it emanates from our physical body.
Whether you call it multitasking, daydreaming, glazing over, or drifting off, we all cognitively process other things while receiving messages. Response preparationOur tendency to rehearse what we are going to say next while a speaker is still talking. An employee may be able to use her iPad to look up information needed to address a concern raised during a business meeting.
Unfortunately, most people have never received any formal training or instruction related to listening. If one listens one may be convinced.a€? Unfortunately, some of our default ways of processing information and perceiving others lead us to rigid ways of thinking. For example, we may claim to be in a hurry and only selectively address the parts of a message that we agree with or that arena€™t controversial. Physical barriers, cognitive limitations, and perceptual biases exist within all of us, and it is more realistic to believe that we can become more conscious of and lessen them than it is to believe that we can eliminate them altogether.
In this sense, conversational turn taking has been likened to a dance where communicators try to avoid stepping on each othera€™s toes. As wea€™ve already learned, intended meaning is not as important as the meaning that is generated in the interaction itself. Sometimes we just get the order of information wrong, which can have relatively little negative effects if we are casually recounting a story, annoying effects if we forget the order of turns (left, right, left or right, left, right?) in our driving directions, or very negative effects if we recount the events of a crime out of order, which leads to faulty testimony at a criminal trial.

People might think another person is talking about them behind their back or that someone is engaged in illegal or unethical behavior. I think it would be really good to be able to go pick our own tomatoes and peppers and cilantro to make homemade salsa. Summera€™s aggression toward Deb isna€™t about a salsa garden; ita€™s about a building frustration with what Summer perceives as Deba€™s lack of follow-through on her ideas. We all have the urge to share our own stories during interactions, because other peoplea€™s communication triggers our own memories about related experiences.
When interrupting becomes a habit or is used in an attempt to dominate a conversation, then it is a barrier to effective listening. To listen is to pay attention with our other senses to help us understand the words being spoken. The active listener pays full attention to the words, and at times, the mood of the person speaking. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (291 MB) or just this chapter (12 MB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline). At the interpreting stage, complex or abstract information may be difficult to relate to previous experiences, making it difficult to reach understanding. If you think of your listening mind as a wall of ten televisions, you may notice that in some situations five of the ten televisions are tuned into one channel. This gap between speech rate and thought rate gives us an opportunity to side-process any number of thoughts that can be distracting from a more important message. The negative effects of media multitasking have received much attention in recent years, as people question the decreasing attention span within our society. She could then e-mail that link to the presenter, who could share it with the room through his laptop and a LCD projector.
Although many of us like to think that wea€™re good multitaskers, some research indicates otherwise. What restrictions or guidelines for use could instructors provide that would capitalize on the presence of such media to enhance student learning and help minimize distractions?
Although some people think listening skills just develop over time, competent listening is difficult, and enhancing listening skills takes concerted effort. In terms of message construction, poorly structured messages or messages that are too vague, too jargon filled, or too simple can present listening difficulties.
When we engage in prejudiced listening, we are usually trying to preserve our ways of thinking and avoid being convinced of something different. We can also operate from a state of denial where we avoid a subject or person altogether so that our views are not challenged. Other a€?bad listeninga€? practices may be habitual, but they are easier to address with some concerted effort. One of the most frequent glitches in the turn-taking process is interruption, but not all interruptions are considered a€?bad listening.a€? An interruption could be unintentional if we misread cues and think a person is done speaking only to have him or her start up again at the same time we do.
So if you interrupt unintentionally, but because you were only half-listening, then the interruption is still evidence of bad listening.
Rationalization is another form of distorted listening through which we adapt, edit, or skew incoming information to fit our existing schemata. Aggressive listeners like to ambush speakers in order to critique their ideas, personality, or other characteristics.
Aside from engaging in aggressive listening because of built-up frustration, such listeners may also attack othersa€™ ideas or mock their feelings because of their own low self-esteem and insecurities. Narcissistic listeners redirect the focus of the conversation to them by interrupting or changing the topic. It is generally more competent to withhold sharing our stories until the other person has been able to speak and we have given the appropriate support and response.
Pseudo-listeningBehaving as if youa€™re paying attention to a speaker when youa€™re actually not.
At the recalling stage, natural limits to our memory and challenges to concentration can interfere with remembering.
In general, listening is easier when listeners can make direct eye contact with and are in close physical proximity to a speaker. If that one channel is a lecture being given by your professor, then you are exerting about half of your cognitive processing abilities on one message. Because of this gap, it is impossible to give one message our a€?undivided attention,a€? but we can occupy other channels in our minds with thoughts related to the central message. Media multitasking may promote inefficiency, because it can lead to distractions and plays a prominent role for many in procrastination. For example, student laptop use during class has been connected to lower academic performance.Carrie B. Even when listening education is available, people do not embrace it as readily as they do opportunities to enhance their speaking skills.
Prejudices that are based on a persona€™s identity, such as race, age, occupation, or appearance, may lead us to assume that we know what he or she will say, essentially closing down the listening process. These bad listening practices include interrupting, distorted listening, eavesdropping, aggressive listening, narcissistic listening, and pseudo-listening.
The speaker may form a negative impression of you that cana€™t just be erased by you noting that you didna€™t a€?mean to interrupt.a€? Interruptions can also be used as an attempt to dominate a conversation. Many if not most of the interactions we have throughout the day occur in the presence of other people.
In any case, this type of listening is considered bad because it is a violation of peoplea€™s privacy. Such behavior often results from built-up frustration within an interpersonal relationship. When the focus is taken off them, narcissistic listeners may give negative feedback by pouting, providing negative criticism of the speaker or topic, or ignoring the speaker.
But we all shift the focus of a conversation back to us occasionally, either because we dona€™t know another way to respond or because we are making an attempt at empathy. At the evaluating stage, personal biases and prejudices can lead us to block people out or assume we know what they are going to say.
You may recall from Chapter 4 "Nonverbal Communication" that when group members are allowed to choose a leader, they often choose the person who is sitting at the center or head of the table.Peter A. Ailments such as a cold, a broken leg, a headache, or a poison ivy outbreak can range from annoying to unbearably painful and impact our listening relative to their intensity. For example, using some of your extra cognitive processing abilities to repeat, rephrase, or reorganize messages coming from one source allows you to use that extra capacity in a way that reinforces the primary message. For example, when our self-consciousness is raised, we may be too busy thinking about how we look, how wea€™re sitting, or what others think of us to be attentive to an incoming message. Rehearsal becomes problematic when response preparation begins as someone is receiving a message and hasna€™t had time to engage in interpretation or recall. If you answered a€?yesa€? to most of them, then you are in line with the general practices of the a€?net generationa€? of digital natives for whom multitasking, especially with various forms of media, is a way of life. The numerous options for media engagement that we have can also lead to a feeling of chaos as our attention is pulled in multiple directions, creating a general sense of disorder. The links to videos and online articles that Ia€™ve included in this textbook allow readers like you to quickly access additional information about a particular subject to prepare for a presentation or complete a paper assignment. Fried, a€?In-Class Laptop Use and Its Effects on Student Learning,a€? Computers and Education 50 (2008): 906a€“14. After teaching communication courses for several years, I have consistently found that students and teachers approach the listening part of the course less enthusiastically than some of the other parts.
Keeping an open mind and engaging in perception checking can help us identify prejudiced listening and hopefully shift into more competent listening practices.
Back-channel cues like a€?uh-huh,a€? as we learned earlier, also overlap with a speakera€™s message.
A person engaging in this type of interruption may lead the other communicator to try to assert dominance, too, resulting in a competition to see who can hold the floor the longest or the most often. If a professor is explaining to a student why he earned a a€?Da€? on his final paper, the student could reattribute the cause from a€?I didna€™t follow the paper guidelinesa€? to a€?this professor is an unfair grader.a€? Sometimes we actually change the words we hear to make them better fit what we are thinking. However, given that our perceptual fields are usually focused on the interaction, we are often unaware of the other people around us or dona€™t think about the fact that they could be listening in on our conversation.

Consequences for eavesdropping may include an angry reaction if caught, damage to interpersonal relationships, or being perceived as dishonest and sneaky. Unfortunately, the more two people know each other, the better they will be at aggressive listening.
A common sign of narcissistic listening is the combination of a a€?pivot,a€? when listeners shift the focus of attention back to them, and a€?one-upping,a€? when listeners try to top what previous speakers have said during the interaction. Outwardly visible signals of attentiveness are an important part of the listening process, but when they are just an a€?act,a€? the pseudo-listener is engaging in bad listening behaviors. At the responding stage, a lack of paraphrasing and questioning skills can lead to misunderstanding.
Another type of noise, psychological noise, bridges physical and cognitive barriers to effective listening. The fact that we have the capability to process more than one thing at a time offers some advantages and disadvantages.
Additionally, we are often challenged when presented with messages that we do not find personally relevant.
In this sense, we are listening with the goal of responding instead of with the goal of understanding, which can lead us to miss important information that could influence our response. Multitasking is a concept that has been around for a while and emerged along with the increasing expectation that we will fill multiple role demands throughout the day. And many of us feel a sense of enslavement when we engage in media multitasking, as we feel like we cana€™t live without certain personal media outlets.
This is because media multitasking has the potential to interfere with listening at multiple stages of the process. Listening is often viewed as an annoyance or a chore, or just ignored or minimized as part of the communication process. Chapter 9 "Preparing a Speech" also discusses many strategies for creating messages tailored for oral delivery, including things like preview and review statements, transitions, and parallel wording.
More than likely, though, the speaker will form a negative impression of the interrupter and may withdraw from the conversation. This can easily happen if we join a conversation late, overhear part of a conversation, or are being a lazy listener and miss important setup and context.
We usually only become aware of the fact that other people could be listening in when wea€™re discussing something private.
Additionally, eavesdropping may lead people to find out information that is personally upsetting or hurtful, especially if the point of the eavesdropping is to find out what people are saying behind their back. She or he is not actually going through the stages of the listening process and will likely not be able to recall the speakera€™s message or offer a competent and relevant response.
In the following section, we will explore how environmental and physical factors, cognitive and personal factors, and bad listening practices present barriers to effective listening. Even though the person may not have demonstrated any leadership abilities, people subconsciously gravitate toward speakers that are nonverbally accessible. Psychological noiseNoise stemming from our psychological states, including moods and level of arousal, that can impede listening., or noise stemming from our psychological states including moods and level of arousal, can facilitate or impede listening. But unless we can better understand how our cognitive capacities and personal preferences affect our listening, we are likely to experience more barriers than benefits. In general, we employ selective attentionOur tendency to pay attention to the messages that benefit us in some way and filter others out., which refers to our tendency to pay attention to the messages that benefit us in some way and filter others out.
Multitasking can be pretty straightforward and beneficiala€”for example, if we listen to motivating music while working out.
Aside from just reading material in a textbook, students can now access information through an authora€™s blog or Twitter account. The study showed that laptop use interfered with receiving, as students using them reported that they paid less attention to the class lectures. In addition, our individualistic society values speaking more than listening, as ita€™s the speakers who are sometimes literally in the spotlight.
All these interruptions are not typically thought of as evidence of bad listening unless they become distracting for the speaker or are unnecessary.
As wea€™ll learn later, matching stories isna€™t considered empathetic listening, but occasionally doing it doesna€™t make you a narcissistic listener. Although it is a bad listening practice, we all understandably engage in pseudo-listening from time to time. The ability to effectively see and hear a person increases peoplea€™s confidence in their abilities to receive and process information. Any mood or state of arousal, positive or negative, that is too far above or below our regular baseline creates a barrier to message reception and processing. But multitasking can be very inefficient, especially when one or more of our concurrent tasks are complex or unfamiliar to us.Fleura Bardhi, Andres J. This is because students used the laptops for purposes other than taking notes or exploring class content. Although listening competence is a crucial part of social interaction and many of us value others we perceive to be a€?good listeners,a€? listening just doesna€™t get the same kind of praise, attention, instruction, or credibility as speaking. Information overload is a common barrier to effective listening that good speakers can help mitigate by building redundancy into their speeches and providing concrete examples of new information to help audience members interpret and understand the key ideas. Last, the addition of material to a message is a type of distorted listening that actually goes against our normal pattern of listening, which involves reducing the amount of information and losing some meaning as we take it in. If a friend needs someone to talk but youa€™re really tired or experiencing some other barrier to effective listening, it may be worth engaging in pseudo-listening as a relational maintenance strategy, especially if the friend just needs a sounding board and isna€™t expecting advice or guidance. The generally positive emotional state of being in love can be just as much of a barrier as feeling hatred. Of the students using laptops, 81 percent checked e-mail during lectures, 68 percent used instant messaging, and 43 percent surfed the web.
The metaphor of a€?weaving a tall talea€? is related to the practice of distorting through addition, as inaccurate or fabricated information is added to what was actually heard.
We may also pseudo-listen to a romantic partner or grandfathera€™s story for the fifteenth time to prevent hurting their feelings. As we learned in Chapter 1 "Introduction to Communication Studies", environmental noises such as a whirring air conditioner, barking dogs, or a ringing fire alarm can obviously interfere with listening despite direct lines of sight and well-placed furniture. Students using laptops also had difficulty with the interpretation stage of listening, as they found less clarity in the parts of the lecture they heard and did not understand the course material as much as students who didna€™t use a laptop.
So unless you plan on taking more communication courses in the future (and I hope you do), this chapter may be the only instruction you receive on the basics of the listening process, some barriers to effective listening, and how we can increase our listening competence. We should avoid pseudo-listening when possible and should definitely avoid making it a listening habit. Stress about an upcoming events ranging from losing a job, to having surgery, to wondering about what to eat for lunch can overshadow incoming messages.
The difficulties with receiving and interpreting obviously create issues with recall that can lead to lower academic performance in the class.
An excellent example of the result of distorted listening is provided by the character Anthony Crispino on Saturday Night Live, who passes along distorted news on the a€?Weekend Updatea€? segment.
Although we may get away with it in some situations, each time we risk being a€?found out,a€? which could have negative relational consequences. While we will explore cognitive barriers to effective listening more in the next section, psychological noise is relevant here given that the body and mind are not completely separate. In past episodes, he has noted that Lebron James turned down the Cleveland Show to be on Miami Vice (instead of left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play basketball for the Miami Heat) and that President Obama planned on repealing the a€?Bush haircutsa€? (instead of the Bush tax cuts). These students reported that they were distracted, as their attention was drawn to the laptop screens of other students. Fatigue, for example, is usually a combination of psychological and physiological stresses that manifests as stress (psychological noise) and weakness, sleepiness, and tiredness (physiological noise). Additionally, mental anxiety (psychological noise) can also manifest itself in our bodies through trembling, sweating, blushing, or even breaking out in rashes (physiological noise).

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