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Effective Communication: 6 Blocks to Listening Well Pt. 1

Last week we discussed together the challenges of active listening in various social settings, highlighting how personal distractions, emotional burdens, and the allure of technology often hinder genuine engagement in conversations. The crux of our discussion was how effective communication hinges on active and attentive listening to nurture relationships whether it be professional, personal, or family relationships.

Since last week, have you had a chance to reflect on occasions where your own concerns or worries have interfered with your ability to truly listen to your colleagues and loved ones? If so, have you identified any patterns? For instance, is there a particular time of the day that you do your best work with listening with at least one of the four intentions: to understand, to enjoy, to learn, or to help? Now is there a paticular time of the day that you noticed yourself slipping into more pseudo listening? Did the environment, situation, or people involved make a difference in one direction or the other? The purpose of these articles are two fold. One, I the author have the opportunity to express my creativity in bringing a diverse range of topics to you. Two, you the reader have an opportunity to read this diverse range of topics and reflect on how it fits into your life. So if you haven't had a moment to reflect, please do so over the next week. As for this week's article....

Just like the bricked in door in our opening picture, blocks to listening prevent you from hearing people. From entering into their inner world. We all have them. Myself included. So please do not beat yourself up about it. We're human! The purpose of today's article is not to indict you but to raise your level of awareness so that you can more easily avoid the blocks and become a better listener. Let's examine six of these blocks to listening.

Listening Block #1- Comparing

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

~Theodore Roosevelt

When you're preoccupied with comparing yourself to those speaking to you, you're not truly listening. Instead, you’re trying to figure out if you’re as smart, as good-looking, as funny, as tough as they are. Whether these comparisons lean positive or negative, they divert your focus from truly hearing the person speaking. Hey we are only human. It is so easy to get caught up in how you measure up to others. However, we can consciously recognize these moments and prevent them from getting in the way of listening well.

Listening Block #2- Mind reading

“Stop assuming people can read your mind. Communicate yourself.” ~ Akiroq Brost.

Finishing each other's sentences is only cute in the movies. When we engage in mind reading, we begin to pay less attention to the words people are actually saying and more attention to their body language and tone of voice in an effort to figure them out. This can lead to assumptions. Do you recall the joke about assuming or to assume? This is what mind reading does; creates an ass out of u and me. Mind reading is a listening block that can often lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations because our assumptions based on non-verbal cues might not align with the speaker's actual words or intended meaning.

Listening Block #3- Rehearsing

I hate icebreaker activities. I do. I really do. And yet at every conference and training I have ever attended in my decades plus career in behavioral health, I am always asked to do some sort of icebreaker activity to help the group get to know one another. For an introvert like me with a twinge of social anxiety, this is torture. I can recall each and every time, I feel pressured to come up with something my peers would find interesting and entertaining. So instead of paying attention to other people’s contributions, I was busy figuring out what I would share. I move that we abolish them or at least stick all extraverts into a room together and let them icebreak to their hearts content. Rehearsing shows up in other ways too. Say a heated debate between spouses or friends. Did you really hear all of what they said? Or were you too busy crafting your response to the part that triggered you? Which leads to our next block to listening and effective communication.

Listening Block #4- Filtering

“The world is nothing but my perception of it. I see only through myself. I hear only through the filter of my story.” ~ Byron Katie

People tend to filter for various reasons. Some may zero in on criticism directed at them, seeking it out even in conversations where it might not exist. Others filter for compliments, eagerly awaiting validation. Some might selectively listen to specific topics that pique their interest, tuning out everything else being discussed. Still some others opt to pay less attention to what is actually said while trying to suss out whether the person communicating is in a good or bad mood. Regardless of the reason, this is selective listening and is a block to listening because it limits their understanding of the full message being communicated and can hinder genuine engagement in conversations.

Listening Block #5- Judging

“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”

~Wayne Dyer   

When swift judgment takes precedence, genuine listening often takes a back seat. There is no other way around this. When we judge others, whether based on looks or prior information, it can lead to dismissing or discrediting their input. You won't actually hear what they have to say. Please remember, rather than judge, be open. You can learn anything from anyone.

Listening Block #6- Daydreaming

When your mind wanders, you're mentally absent from the interaction, making it challenging to comprehend or engage in any sort of meaningful way with the person speaking with you. By not being fully present, you might miss valuable information, insights, or opportunities for deeper connection or learning from the conversation.Consistently daydreaming during conversations may convey disinterest or lack of respect, potentially straining relationships over time.

What Are Your Most Common Communication Blocks?

  • Comparing

  • Mind reading

  • Rehearsing

  • Filtering

You can vote for more than one answer.

There you have it. Six blocks to listening well that you may not have been aware of. Have you found yourself in any of these pointers? Please feel free to vote in our poll which of the six blocks you find yourself guilty of; you can also drop a comment in the comment section below. Good communication isn't solely about speaking; it heavily relies on our attentive listening. At its core, the essence of connection lies in the basic act of being listened to. Recognizing and addressing listening blocks is essential for enhancing your active listening skill and thus strengthening your relationships. And please remember, as you begin this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading.

"Nought may endure but mutability." ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

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