Oct 12

4/3 Blocks to Real Listening for Conflict Solutions

In this series on Conflict Solutions, we are aiming to share the importance of learning to really listen to what others are saying to avoid conflicts and to imnprove relationships.

Next time you are ‘talking’ with someone, stop and watch what your mind is doing.  Concentrating on the person ….or  ?  Sometimes, we are so self-centred or too fact-orientated that we miss important information being shared.  Other times, we may be concentrating on putting up barriers to guard ourselves to allow real shared conversations.

1. Self-imposed Barriers to listening

It is easy to get distracted when listening to others.  Here are some common reasons:

a. Inadequate attention – Most often, we are more concerned with our own issues and problems than really giving our full attention.  We are thinking about dinner, or our boss’ retirement or …..

b. Mind reading – We may be just tired, sick, or too involved in problem solving for our problems to listen.

c. Rehearsing – Other times, we might be so focused on thinking about what they might be going to say.  This can be a form of ‘mind reading’ ore rehearsing when we think we know what is being said.  We might think we are two steps ahead of the person’s story but we might also be so off tract, the person and the relationship suffers.

d. Thinking ahead – Then there are times when we are thinking ahead to what we are going to reply next that we miss important clues.

e. Interrupting others – Another all too common block to listening is the tendency to interrupt others.  This can be due to impatience on my part or in trying to re-direct the conversation into some worthwhile topic.  Changing the subject by interrupting may be helpful sometimes but if this is a constant habit, the relationship will suffer.

f. Lost in our own world – Or there are times when we are honestly being bored or really not interested in their conversation.  Our minds wander and only tune into what interest us.  This is a form of ‘Selective Hearing’ we all have done.  Something that person has said triggered a memory and we are off in our own dream world.

2.  Personal Judgements and Biases stop Listening Skills

Whenever we put labels on others, we filter what we want to hear and not hear.  We might write off something that is said, or put a person into ‘a box’ by our own assessments, whether they are true or not.  See the next post on ‘Our Sunglasses – Filters’ worksheets.

3. Judging takes up a large group of similar attitudes. 

Often we are filtering or judging the merits of what we are hearing.  Like-dislike, good-bad, right-wrong, relevant-irrelevant are common thoughts we take into account when following a conversation. The stronger the cultural filters, the greater the likelihood of bias. However, when the person senses we are lost in our own filters, harm happens to the relationship.

a. Comparing ourselves to others,

b. Criticising them silently for their actions is judging.

c. Name-calling or the opposite, flattery is also a form of judging as you are the one deciding good or bad about that person.

d. Diagnosing or evaluating their problems comes into this groups of attitudes as well.  Giving them answers before we have listened correctly gives the impression that we really aren’t interested in hearing them but only in giving them answers.  This is often a common problem for ‘people helpers’ who may have experienced the same pain as the person they are listening to.  They want to give answers that helped them but not necessarily the person they are listening to.  Using logic too soon hinders good communication.

e. Lastly, manipulative reassurance or false sympathy to gain their trust is found with ‘judgemental’ people.  All this stops us from really listening to the person.

The following conversation took place between George and his friend Phil:

George: “I can’t get past how easy it was to just sack the whole lot of us at work.  It’s as vivid in mind as though it happened yesterday.  No discussion or …”

Phil: “That’s the problem isn’t it?  You’re caught in the past so just do yourself a favour and get on with your life!”

What were some of the personal judgements Phil had made?  Where was he when George was expressing his lingering pain?  What was blocking his listening to his friend’s real issues?

In our next post, we will discuss other blockages to really listen to others in the communication process.  I am sure knowing and using better skills will avoid many of the common conflicts we find around us.

Susanne Fengler. Blog Author


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