How to Overcome Blocks to Effective Listening

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You have probably heard the saying “we have two ears and one mouth”, implying that we should be listening twice as much as speaking in order to truely connect, understand and communicate with others. Often our thoughts and actions can have an adverse effect on our ability to listen effectively. Let’s look at a few key aspects that relate to this and the skills and techniques we can apply:

1. Assumptions 

Avoid clouding up your listening attention with assumptions about what your client is trying to say, what they really mean, what they want you to hear, etc.  Assumptions are often not accurate and they could certainly prevent you from focusing on what’s being said.  To manage this situation, you can say within your mind “If I’m assuming, I’m not listening.” Tune in on any possible assumptions they might be making based on what you hear. If you feel you need to, check-in with them by asking a question to “pop” any possible assumption and provide clarity for both you and them.

2. Buzz Words

Your prospect or client may have private buzz words which have a definite emotional charge, sometimes positive, sometimes more negative.  When you hear their own buzz words, it may be appropriate to reject or accept the whole message on the basis of their instant emotional reaction to the word or idea.  If you get hooked into the buzz word and its emotional intention, the listening stops.

3. Interruptions

In our haste to share our own ideas, we cut others off. This conveys to your client that you do not value what they have to say, and this can result in the perception of lack of respect. If you have something to say, hold the thought while staying focused on listening to the other person. This may not come easy, but it is important to stay committed towards developing this skill. Make sure they finish their sentence or their message they are trying to communicate and keep the discussion flowing.

4.  Generalisations

If you feel they are generalizing too much, ask them to be more specific. You can do this by asking questions that start with the following:

 “What specifically …”

 “How specifically …”

 “Who specifically …”.

 Examples:

What specifically would you like to achieve during this meeting?”

 How specifically can I be of service to you right now?”

 Who specifically would be most suitable to help you develop the project plan?”

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2 comments


  • Amiable dispatch and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you seeking your information.

    May 5, 2010
  • Thank you for the tips Mark. Listening is such a vital communication skill. Those who learn how to do it can make better decisions based on richer information. It’s also more relaxing to let others tell us what they want to instead of always trying to dominate a conversation or lead it in a certain direction.

    October 17, 2010

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