Roadblocks to Effective Listening

Roadblocks to effective listening can be external or internal. External roadblocks can include distracters such as: noise, an uncomfortable temperature or seating, or an inappropriate location. Try to be aware of external roadblocks and offset them if possible.

Internal roadblocks include a variety of conditions or reactions within the speaker or audience, such as:

  • Emotional interference.
  • Defensiveness.
  • Hearing only facts and not feelings.
  • Not seeking clarification.
  • Hearing what is expected instead of what is said.
  • Stereotyping.
  • The halo effect (i.e., the tendency for something to be influenced by a loosely associated factor.).
  • Automatic dismissal (e.g., “We’ve never done it that way before.”)
  • Resistance to change.

Tips for Active Listening

The following are techniques to help ensure active listening:

  • Make eye contact. Eye contact increases the chances of “getting” the message and demonstrates interest and attention. When listening to someone on the phone, try not to look at things that will take attention away from the speaker.
  • Adjust your body posture. Facing the speaker and slightly leaning in suggests that you are paying attention and helps you to stay tuned in. When on the phone, position yourself so that you’re comfortable but not so relaxed that you lose the ability to attend to the speaker.
  • Give verbal or nonverbal acknowledgment. Acknowledging the speaker helps involve you in the communication process and shows you are paying attention.
  • Clear your mind of your own thoughts to avoid wandering mentally.
  • Avoid distracting behaviors. Distracting behaviors, playing with a pencil, drumming your fingers, grimacing, jingling change in your pocket, or others acts may take away from your ability to listen and distract the speaker.

Source: The Federal Emergency Management Agency

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