Listening is an important aspect of human life. Our ability to listen or not listen affects all aspects of how we live or exist. As previous posts on this topic have shown listening is a process and there are many factors and barriers that affect our being effective listeners. HOW DO WE OVERCOME THESE BARRIERS ?


Physical barriers Listen in a well-ventilated place and try to make the listening place comfortable and conducive to listening. This can be achieved by shutting out intruding sources of noises or factors if they cannot be totally controlled. In case the environment is uncomfortable, take the mind away from the discomfort and try to look at the importance of what you are listening to. When you move your mind away, you listen well despite the discomfort. In case of physical disability – like not hearing or speaking well, one should go to a hospital. Some people for example hear a consonant and it means something else to them. The listener should therefore train himself to decipher correct pronunciation. Listen with total involvement. Use your eyes, which should focus attention on the person you are discussing with. When you are totally involved in your listening, always give a feedback; ask questions when you are not clear or seek clarification. Repeat what you have heard for confirmation. When listening, match your listening with your body posture – that is try to copy the posture and the gestures of the person talking to you most especially in a one-to-one relationship.

Psychological barriers Prepare yourself towards listening; get necessary information about the speaker and what he is going to talk about. Clear your mind of extra ideas or problems. During the time of listening do not do any other thing, that is, be totally involved. Understand the fact that the way we speak and hear is four times slower than the way we think. We think faster than we speak or hear. You must use this extra thinking time positively. This means we must use the thinking time to think about what the speaker is saying (the extra time) and not use if for day dreaming or thinking of other things we think are pressing. Do not use the extra time to prepare your answers or you responses to what you have heard. Clear you mind about what may be giving you problems. Get-interested in what is being said and relate it to your background and experience.

Cultural barriers Studying the cultural background of the speaker or the place you are going to helps to break any listening barrier. Knowledge of the cultural background helps you to become aware and be reconciled to what may culturally inhibit your listening. Refuse to be subjective but try to be objective. Don’t judge your listener by his background or what he looks like. Do not put your culture side by side with his in other to judge or prove which one is better. This is because no culture is superior to another as each culture has its own weaknesses and strengths. Always have a clear and objective outlook on any culture you come across. Also avoid allowing halo-effect to determine your listening which the act of judging the speaker by how he looks or what he professes to be. This may carry the listener away to the point that he will not think critically about what he is hearing. This in turn makes it possible for the listener to be deceived by such haloed person.

Stereotyping and prejudices – Take everybody that comes to you the way they project themselves until the person contradicts himself. Remember that human beings are not the same. So, do not generalise issues based on your experience. Take every human being as true on his face value until proven otherwise. As a listener you should put yourself in the shoes of the other person for this is turn helps to reduce your prejudice and ability to be stereotype.

Other ways of overcoming listening problems

Understand what happens when one listens – As a receptive skill, listening involves perceptions and relationship. It is affected by the rate of thinking, the action going on at the time of listening and relationship existing between the listener and the speaker. Human beings think faster than they talk or write. They think four times faster than they read, write or speak. This means that every individual involved in a communication thinks faster than he hears. As a result, he has more time to think after being told something. This extra thinking time must be used on what you are listening to, hear or what you are discussing. It must not be used in daydreaming or turned into a period of preparing your response. You must use it to put together what the person talking to you is saying, to follow the train of his thought, the logicality of what he is saying and the cohesion. These should not be done with the purpose of finding fault or responding with you own view(s). Your thinking time is not to be used in finding faults in what the speaker is saying.

Listen with the eyes – Watch every moment, every gesture and facial expressions of the speaker. Words are not the only tools which human beings use when talking, Nonverbal cues, tell a lot about the inner being of the speaker, his perceptions and his expectations from you and what she is saying. Focusing on the speaker gauges his sincerity or feelings. Total concentration helps in making you understand the speaker. It is easy to fake listening, but, when we fake listening, we are not being fair to ourselves and to the person talking to us. The reason being that we may end up losing the key points of what the person is saying.

Be involved when listening Involve yourself in the listening process. That involves repeating what the speaker has just said to you. Another technique is the use of the eyes. Meet the speaker’s gaze, if the person is telling lies he will hold back. Human beings think in most pictures, images, and you help your listening by creating pictures of what is being said in your mind. Your total involvement in what you are listening to, helps you to remember later.

Listening is an important element of  our day-to-day living and communication. Our inability to listen has been a major point in relationships breaking and in the high level of misunderstanding and misrepresentations that permeates this present age. The age of more communication technologies and less human touch and relationships.  When the husband does not listen to the wife, there is always the possibility that they will cease to communicate. Less communication will surely lead to break-up of any relationship. When couples do not listen, there is the possibility of their not satisfying or servicing their needs. The inadequate satisfaction of needs and expectations naturally lead to less communication and subsequent break in relationship. The same also happens in the case of friends, partners in business or workers in the same company. So, as we individually continue the journey of our life, we need to listen more and use what we hear to help US in creating a persona for ourselves. HOWEVER, THE PERSONA YOU ARE CREATING, IS IT REALLY YOURS? OR IS IT THE PERSONA OTHERS GAVE YOU? IN RELATIONSHIPS AFTER RELATIONSHIPS THAT YOU FIND YOURSELF, IS IT A BALANCED RELATIONSHIP?



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