Bad listening habits
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Common habits |
Key issues | See also
There are many ways to listen badly, sometimes affected by the listener and
sometimes by the environment.
Bad listening is common, but is seldom really intended. The way that it
effectively works is that we fall into the thoughtless repeating patterns of
Here are some of the bad habits as suggested by several authors. It is scary
how many of these may be recognized in oneself...
Nichols and Stevens (1957) offer the following list as poor listening habits.
- Calling the subject uninteresting
- Criticizing the speaker &/or delivery
- Getting over-stimulated
- Listening only for facts (bottom line)
- Not taking notes or outlining everything
- Faking attention
- Tolerating or creating distractions
- Tuning out difficult material
- Letting emotional words block the message
- Wasting the time difference between speed of speech and speed of thought
Robertson (1994) describes the following list as the ten most common bad
- Lack of interest in the subject
- Focus on the person, not on the content
- Focus on the detail, missing the big picture
- Force-fitting their ideas into your mental models
- Body language that signals disinterest
- Creating or allowing distractions
- Ignoring what you do not understand
- Letting emotions block the subject
Barker and Watson (2000) suggest the following as irritating listening
- Interrupting the speaker.
- Not looking at the speaker.
- Rushing the speaker and making him feel that he's wasting the listener's
- Showing interest in something other than the conversation.
- Getting ahead of the speaker and finishing her thoughts.
- Not responding to the speaker's requests.
- Saying, "Yes, but . . .," as if the listener has made up his mind.
- Topping the speaker's story with "That reminds me. . ." or "That's
nothing, let me tell you about. . ."
- Forgetting what was talked about previously.
- Asking too many questions about details.
It is interesting to note the overlaps and differences in the above lists.
Key underlying aspects about these include:
- Lack of respect for the speaker
- Stuck in own head; trapped by own thoughts
- Hearing only what is superficially said; missing the real meaning
- General ignorance about social politeness
Nichols, R. G. and L. A. Stevens (1957). Are you listening? New York,
Arthur Robertson (1994). Listen for Success, Irwin
Larry Barker and Kittie Watson (2000). Listen Up: How to Improve
Relationships, Reduce Stress, and Be More Productive by Using the Power of
Listening, St. Martin's Press
Good listening habits