In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey points out that we should “Seek first to understand – then to be understood.” Here Stephen Covey suggest that when we communicate with others, we should DIAGNOSE before we PRESCRIBE. Is it easy? I think not; because the truth is, most of us are poor listeners – at times. Over time, I have learned that this is because we are unaware of how we block our own active listening, and how we keep the lid on the jar.
What follows is a list of barriers to active and effective listening and how we can overcome them:
When we make up our minds about something too quickly, before we’ve heard all the pertinent information, and before we’ve given it the thought that it deserves, we’ve made a snap judgment. I submit to you that snap judgments are often foolish and can cause all sorts of avoidable trouble.
BEFORE you make a snap judgment while listening to someone, be sure that you consider the reasons the speaker gives to support their ideas. Remember – it’s perfectly okay to disagree; however, it’s just best to avoid snap judgments.
When we interrupt someone to make our point, we indeed make it abundantly clear to the speaker that we are not receiving their message; that their coins, if you will, are not making it into the jar.
When you are the listener, do your due diligence and stop yourself from saying any and everything that comes into your mind while you are listening. Due your utmost to wait politely and patiently for a chance to share your reactions and feedback to what was said.
Listening carefully means more that just not interrupting someone. Our very own thoughts can keep a message from getting through when we mentally argue with the speaker (I can’t believe you just said that), think about what we’re going to say next (hurry up and say what you have to say so that I can really tell you what’s on my mind), or even think about a point while a new and different point is being made. You can control this mental traffic by staying focused on receiving the message, and remembering that we must seek first to understand – then to be understood.
Remember this: With all that is involved with interpersonal communication, it’s easy to see how important it is to be open when you listen. And to be open you must continually work at overcoming barriers to active and effective listening.