Posted 10 years ago
You must eliminate noise and distractions in order to be an effective listener and communicator. These barriers may be in the environment, like noises in the room, other people talking, poor acoustics, bad odors, extreme temperatures, an uncomfortable chair, or visual distractions. Or they could be physical disruptions such as telephone calls or visitors.
Another kind of barrier is something distracting about the speaker. Maybe he or she dresses oddly, shows poor grooming, and has disturbing mannerisms, confusing facial expressions or body language. Or perhaps he or she has a thick accent or an unappealing presentation style. Yet another barrier has to do with you, the listener, and can be either physical or psychological. Maybe it’s close to lunch or quitting time, and you’re preoccupied with how you feel. You’re hungry or tired, or angry, or maybe have a cold or a toothache. If so, you’re not going to be listening fully.
Another physical barrier could be your proximity to the speaker. If he or she’s either too close or too far away from you, you may feel uncomfortable and have a hard time concentrating.
A second sort of internal barrier is psychological. Perhaps you’re closed-minded to new ideas or resistant to information that runs contrary to your beliefs and values. Or maybe you’re bored, or daydreaming, or jumping to conclusions.
There are lots of potential distractions. If you can’t avoid them, minimize them. You do that by focusing totally on the speaker and paying attention. Here are four specific techniques that will help you concentrate while listening:
1. Take a deep breath. This will prevent you from interrupting, and will provide your brain with invigorating oxygen. Try it now, and as you’re doing it, try to speak. It doesn’t work very well, does it?
2. Consciously decide to listen. No matter who’s speaking, pay attention and listen for information that’s particularly interesting or useful. You never know what you might learn. As show-biz wit Wilson Mizner once said, “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.”
3. Mentally paraphrase what the speaker is saying. This will prevent you from daydreaming about irrelevant and superfluous topics. You’ll concentrate on the speaker instead of yourself.
4. Maintain eye contact. Where your eyes focus, your ears follow. You’re most likely to listen to what you are looking at.
So, if you can’t eliminate a distraction, use one or more of these techniques to help you handle the distractions.