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Barriers to

Active Listening
Effective Listening

Barriers of to Active Listening

Most of us would see some of the skills and
behaviours associated with active
listening as basic courtesy.
Not interrupting

Other active listening skills (such as asking

clarifying questions) are less familiar.

1. The Image of Leadership

Societies value leaders who are action
oriented, charismatic, visionary, and
directive, the expectation is that leaders
should have the answers, call the shots
Emphasis on the performance of leaders
cuts into their ability to be quiet and listen.

Leaders believe they listen just as much as

they talk.
Studies show they do 80% of talking in their
interactions with others.

2. Silence as Agreement
Listening quietly can be confused with
agreement or acceptance of the others
ideas and perspective.
When one disagrees or has additional
ideas and information, one may be quick
to debate or respond.
Active listening allows different viewpoints
to be aired and assessed.

No discount or hold back of opinion or

objections should take place.
Instead, allow sufficient time to learn,
uncover assumptions and seek clarity
(with an open mind) when listening.

3. External Pressure
A volatile, uncertain, complex, or
ambiguous environment makes it
tempting not to listen.
The daily demands one faces make it
difficult for us to slow down, focus, inquire,
and listen.
One of the critical skills for dealing with
uncertain conditions is to actively solicit
information and make sense of it.

4. Lack of Know-How
Listening is a neglected communication
Much of the emphasis on communication
is about how to effectively get your
message out.
Less effort is made to ensure that we
accurately receive the message of others.

5. Individual Makeup
An individuals
experience (whether accustomed to
working collaboratively or independently)
Personality (action driven, impatient, talk
oriented, or reserved)
may create barriers to active listening.

6. Time and Place

Listening is particularly challenging when
you arent in the same room with those
with whom you are working /

Problems with telephone calls and video

conferences are
Impersonal / detached
Nonverbal cues are missing
Technology may be distracting
The lure of multitasking is strong

Active listening is definitely crucial with the

advancement of technology and our
dependence on it in our daily lives .

7. Emotion
When people express strong feelings, it
may be tempting to reach quickly or
Its better to use active listening to
Ease tensions
Address conflict
Find common ground for solving problems

Low-grade emotions can also make it

difficult to listen well.
When one is negotiating / communicating
with someone one doesnt respect, it may
be a particular challenge to listen without
To be patient

Emotions are always going to play a role

in communication, an active listener is
able to manage his/her feelings and help
others to manage theirs.

8. Cultural Differences
The way we work, communicate and
listen is deeply connected to our cultural
Routine or natural behaviours can be
misinterpreted and can create
unexpected problems when we are
communicating with others whose cultural
backgrounds are different from ours.
Most of us are culturally biased.

While active listening may allow us to be

better communicate in culturally diverse
settings, it is important to be mindful of our
own assumptions and interpretations.

How to Improve Your Listening

Skills: Suggestions
Case 1
I sit behind my desk, accept phone calls,
shuffle papers, or otherwise communicate
by my activities or gestures that I am not
fully attentive.
Case 2
I have a hard time concentrating on what
is being said.

Case 3
I am annoyed when someone slows me
Case 4
I think about what I want to say next
rather than about what the other person
is saying.

Case 5
I dont like it when someone questions my
ideas of actions.
Case 6
I interrupt or show signs of impatience as I
wait for the other person to finish talking.

Case 7
I give advice too soon; I suggest courses
of action or solutions to problems before
the other person has fully explained his /
her perspective.
Case 8
I tell people not to feel the way they do.

Case 9
I sense that people seem upset after
talking to me.
Case 10
I tend to talk significantly more than the
other person talks.

Case 11
I make it a point to fill any silences.

More Problems
12. I am uncomfortable when the other
person expresses emotions.
13. I have a hard time understanding what
people are trying to say.
14. I avoid asking any questions that would
15. I ask questions for which I already have
the answers.
16. I expect yes or no answers.

17. I frequently lose track of where the

conversation is going.
18. I have a hard time remembering what
has been said
19. I frequently discover that things dont
get done.
20. I avoid having things repeated, by the
other person or myself.
21. I keep my thoughts to myself.

22. I keep my feelings to myself.

23. I avoid sharing personal experiences.
24. I try hard not to let the other person