Barriers to Effective Listening

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Abstract:
This paper explores multiple studies on the many listening barriers in communication. Specifically, this paper focuses on a study done about the frequent listening barriers and how they can affect listening effectiveness. In addition, It discuses the many individual listening barriers. It explores six major listening factors that come from the multiple listening barriers. The main study this paper revolves around is conducted by Steven Golen (1990), conducted with university students and their opinions of frequent barriers to effective listening. The study explores the most frequently encountered listening barriers in communication. 2

LISTENING BARRIERS IN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
Frequent Listening Barriers in Personal Relationships
Listening is very important in every type of relationship. It is used every day to help develop relationships on a personal level. Psychological barriers to listening are something most people have experienced. Emotional episodes such as anger or sadness, or even extreme joy, can create a barrier by distracting us from the speaker’s words. People get so anxious to speak themselves that they do not process what they are hearing. In addition, humans are subject to such continual and diverse stimuli; most do not even realize that they are poor listeners and that listening is hard. (Peterson, 2012). There are many textbooks written on listening and entire chapters about listening. They all emphasize the importance of listening in relationships. Researchers have found that people who are trained in listening skills see themselves as more competent in academic settings, career settings, and social settings. Students who have taken courses in listening said they were very beneficial in their lives as students, family members, and partners in social relationships. Listening comprehension has been somewhat neglected and poorly taught for a long time. “If frequency is a measure of importance, then listening easily qualifies as the most prominent kind of communication” (Adler & Rodman, 1997, p. 283). This quote has 3

a lot of truth to it. Every time someone talks, one or more people are almost always listening. How much of what people say is distorted or misunderstood due to ineffective listening? There is no questioning the importance of listening. Most people do not realize the effects that ineffective listening can have. This paper will focus on a study by Steven Golen, at Arizona State University. This study determined which barriers are perceived to be the most frequently encountered that may affect listening effectiveness (Golen, 1990). The majority of studies done on listening have focused mostly on specific types of concepts or techniques for improving listening effectiveness. There was one study however, that focused on multiple barriers to effective listening (Watson & Smeltzer, 1984). Within that study only one part focused on causes of listening problems such as lack of feedback about listening skills, lack of knowledge, lack of openness, and lack of motivation. Regardless, this study focuses on the barriers to effective listening. Golen’s main objective in his study was to narrow down which barriers are perceived to be most often occurring that affect listening effectiveness. The study determines whether individual barriers could be combined into larger, more general categories that could later be useful for instructors and trainers who focus on listening education. Multiple studies have mentioned individual barriers like distractions, emotional reactions, and rebuttal tendencies, but the Watson and Smeltzer (1984) study was the only one that specifically focused on multiple barriers to effective listening. In the Watson and Smeltzer (1984) study, a number of college students and a number of business professionals completed a survey that contained fourteen barriers. The students’ results showed the following listening barriers as the most serious; disinterest 4

in the topic,...
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