Written by: Ginger Stephens

Listening is a fundamental skill that impacts our relationships, careers, and personal growth. However, several habits can prevent us from truly listening. Understanding these barriers can help us become better communicators and build stronger connections.

Here are some common obstacles to effective listening:

1. Multitasking

In our fast-paced world, multitasking is often seen as a necessity. However, dividing your attention among multiple activities means you’re not fully present in the conversation. This not only shows a lack of respect for the speaker but also prevents you from truly understanding their message.

2. Appeasing

Agreeing with everything someone says to avoid conflict or to be liked might seem like an easy way to get along, but it indicates you aren’t truly engaged. Placating prevents meaningful dialogue and can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved issues.

3. Rehearsing

Focusing on what you’ll say next instead of listening often means you miss important details. Rehearsing your response takes you out of the moment and hinders genuine communication.

4. Derailing

Changing the subject abruptly or making jokes when feeling bored or uncomfortable can derail a conversation. This behavior can signal to the speaker that their thoughts and feelings aren’t valued.

5. Relating

Using others’ stories as a springboard for your own can shift the focus away from them and onto you. While sharing similar experiences can sometimes build rapport, over-identifying can make the other person feel unheard and unimportant.

6. Dreaming

Allowing your mind to wander to unrelated thoughts—like your lengthy to-do list, unresolved issues, or upcoming plans—detracts from the conversation at hand. Dreaming indicates that the current interaction isn’t a priority.

7. Being Right

Prioritizing being right over understanding the other person’s perspective can create a combative atmosphere. When your main goal is to win an argument rather than listen, you miss the opportunity for meaningful exchange and compromise.

8. Advising

Offering solutions rather than truly listening can be well-intentioned but may come off as dismissive. People often seek empathy and understanding more than advice, so it’s crucial to listen fully before offering your perspective.

9. Wrangling

Constantly looking for points of disagreement or engaging in argumentative behavior undermines the purpose of the conversation. It shifts the focus from mutual understanding to winning the debate.

Becoming a Better Listener

To become a better listener, it’s essential to recognize and address these barriers. Practice mindfulness to stay present, show empathy, and focus on truly understanding others’ perspectives. By doing so, you will not only improve your communication skills, but also strengthen your relationships and personal growth.