Most of us are terrible listeners. We're such poor listeners, in fact, that we don't know how much we're missing. The following are eight common barriers to good listening, with suggestions for overcoming each. #1 - Knowing the answer
"Knowing the answer" means that you think you already know what the speaker wants to say, before she actually finishes saying it. You might then impatiently cut her off or try to complete the sentence for her. Even more disruptive is interrupting her by saying that you disagree with her, but without letting her finish saying what it is that you think you disagree with. That's a common problem when a discussion gets heated, and which causes the discussion to degrade quickly. By interrupting the speaker before letting her finish, you're essentially saying that you don't value what she's saying. Showing respect to the speaker is a crucial element of good listening. The "knowing the answer" barrier also causes the listener to pre-judge what the speaker is saying -- a kind of closed-mindedness. A good listener tries to keep an open, receptive mind. He looks for opportunities to stretch his mind when listening, and to acquire new ideas or insights, rather than reinforcing existing points of view. Strategy for overcoming this barrier
A simple strategy for overcoming the "knowing the answer" barrier is to wait for three seconds after the speaker finishes before beginning your reply. Three seconds can seem like a very long time during a heated discussion, and following this rule also means that you might have to listen for a long time before the other person finally stops speaking. That's usually a good thing, because it gives the speaker a chance to fully vent his or her feelings. Another strategy is to schedule a structured session during which only one person speaks while the other listens. You then switch roles in the next session. It's worth emphasizing that the goal of good listening is simply to listen -- nothing more and nothing less. During the session when you play the role of listener, you are only allowed to ask supportive questions or seek clarification of the speaker's points. You may not make any points of your own during this session. That can be tricky, because some people's "questions" tend to be more like statements. Keeping the mind open during conversation requires discipline and practice. One strategy is to make a commitment to learn at least one unexpected, worthwhile thing during every conversation. The decision to look for something new and interesting helps make your mind more open and receptive while listening. #2 - Trying to be helpful
Another significant barrier to good listening is "trying to be helpful". Although trying to be helpful may seem beneficial, it interferes with listening because the listener is thinking about how to solve what he perceives to be the speaker's problem. Consequently, he misses what the speaker is actually saying. An old Zen proverb says, "When walking, walk. When eating, eat." In other words, give your whole attention to whatever you're doing. It's worth emphasizing that the goal of good listening is simply to listen -- nothing more and nothing less. Interrupting the speaker in order to offer advice disrupts the flow of conversation, and impairs the listener's ability to understand the speaker's experience. Many people...