This unit talks about hindrances to effective listening

What are Listening Hindrances?

Physiological Hindrances to Effective Listening


Communication and active listening involve higher-order brain functions that cannot be supported without proper nourishment. If you skip lunch before meeting with a friend, chances are that you will not be able to really listen to what he/she is saying.

Needing to Use the Restroom

Always use the restroom before entering a situation in which you may need to use active listening skills. Otherwise, you will have difficulty focusing. It is better to interrupt the interaction for a quick bathroom break than to continue without the ability to really listen.


A headache, stomach upset or injury can inhibit your ability to process information and listen to someone when they speak. Find a way to control your pain as much as possible if you cannot postpone a conversation or meeting that requires your full attention.


When you are sick, it is a bad idea to become involved in a conversation that requires you to actively listen. You will not be able to concentrate and you will be too focused on how you feel to care about what the other person is saying.


Fatigue undermines your ability to concentrate and make important communication judgments. Even though you may do your best to actively listen, chances are you’ll find yourself dozing off while the other person is speaking.

Emotional Distress

Extreme grief, anger, anxiety or fear can alter the chemical balance of your brain, making it physiologically impossible to engage in rational,intentional communication. Active listening shouldn’t be attempted until after you’ve calmed down.

Poor Hearing

Hearing loss or partial deafness can severely impede a person’s ability to actively listen. Poor hearing can cause you to incorrectly perceive what someone is saying, making communication difficult. Age-related hearing loss, an ear infection or even a plugged ear canal can all interfere with active listening. If you find it difficult to hear what people are saying to you, visit your doctor to test for hearing problems.

Psychological Hindrances to Listening


Listening barriers can also be created by internally generated noise, such as monologues. People often miss what others are saying because they are distracted by their own thoughts or daydreams. Sometimes they fail to concentrate because they are too self-absorbed.


The way people feel about themselves and about others can be a major listening barrier. When a person thinks that he or she knows best, either in general or when discussing a particular topic, this attitude can prevent him or her from effectively receiving information from another person. People also have a tendency to erect listening barriers when they feel threatened by what they are hearing. This can happen when individuals believe that they are being personally attacked, accused or insulted. Being defensive can also result in listening barriers if one person is accustomed to the poor communication skills of another person. For example, if a husband and wife constantly argue, the anticipation of an argument may prevent them from listening to each other even when they try to interact more civilly.


Certain words can trigger reactions that create listening barriers. Being politically correct and using emotionally charged vocabulary has this effect. Words denoting ethnic or racial identity can also have this effect if they conjure thoughts of negative stereotypes. This type of language grabs attention but also tends to create a situation that prevents people from listening effectively to the overall message.

How to Overcome Listening Hindrances

Effective communication is both simple and complicated. On the one hand, effective communication is simply a matter of listening respectfully, in the way we would like others to listen to us. On the other hand, we each have our own agenda, which inhibits our ability to fully listen to someone with conflicting objectives. Overcoming hindrances to effective listening involves finding common ground on which to communicate and then learning to express opinions and needs calmly and clearly. Study the following suggested ways of overcoming listening hindrances’

Treat the person you are attempting to communicate with respectfully. If you do not put him/her on the defensive, s/he will be better able to hear what you have to say and respond by truly addressing the issues rather than reacting to perceived insults. Speak without making overt or implied accusations and listen carefully to his point of view. The more fully you understand what he or she has to say, the easier it will be to reconcile your differences.

Find common ground on which to communicate. Despite the fact that issues and antagonism can create hindrances to effective communication, there is almost always some point of agreement between two people from which they can start building a bridge. For example, if one neighbour wants to plant a tree while the other objects to the shade that tree will create in his garden, they can begin a dialogue based on their common interest in keeping their neighbourhood attractive.

Identify any other existing barriers to effective communication, such as physical barriers of space or time, or cultural differences that cause one party to speak or act in a way that the other party finds offensive or threatening. Whenever possible, discuss these barriers when you begin your dialogue. If you cannot openly discuss the variables creating barriers to effective communication, keep them in mind nonetheless in order to maintain as much perspective as possible.

Source:National Open University of Nigeria

SEE ALLAdd a note
Add your Comment

WhatsApp chat