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What Makes Our Listening Ineffective and How to Improve It

What Makes Our Listening Ineffective and How to Improve It

Engaging in selective listening may be the easiest way to pick a fight with your significant other. I know I’m guilty of it. I listen to what he says and assume I understand what he means, and not always in a positive way.

This misunderstanding typically stems from the fact that I am not actually listening at all. I am hearing what I want to hear and tuning out everything in between. This causes me to have my own version of the entire conversation, and it usually isn’t very accurate. Many women will joke that their husbands have selective listening, but could it be that we are all a little guilty of it?

What Is Selective Listening and Why It Is Problematic

Selective listening, or selective attention, is the phenomenon that occurs when we only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. It’s a type of mental filtering in which we tune out someone’s opinions or ideas when they don’t line up with ours.[1] This isn’t just a bad habit or rude behavior. It’s part of a big problem which results when you are unable to hear what someone has to say because you are refusing to submit yourself to the underlying confrontation. That potential fight is the real reason we often stop hearing what someone has to say; we’ve already decided they’re wrong because we are right.

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If You Want to Have Good Listening, You Need to Care First

Good listening ultimately comes down to priorities. If we deem something to be important and worth listening to, there’s a good chance we are going to block out all background noise and focus on that one thing. But if we’re listening to our spouse remind us to get milk, there’s a good chance we’ll be more focused on the celebrity gossip show we’re watching and listening to. In fact, our brains were made to prioritize some audio cues over others!

Whether we are fully aware of it or not, we are always selectively listening. Science has proven that our brains are able to determine which conversations to tune out (no matter how many are happening around us simultaneously), but our brains also give us the ability to focus on specific conversations individually while multiple conversations compete for our attention [2].

Selective Hearing Can Make You Close-Minded and Destroy the Relationships You Cherish

Though choosing not to hear the request to take out the garbage can seem petty, selective hearing as a whole is a big deal. It completely closes you off to accepting, or even entertaining, different ideas. This ultimately impacts the things you may choose to believe and learn.

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More so, the partner who is sick of you “not hearing” them ask you to wash the dishes or fold the laundry may not stick around to see what else your ears ignore. Relationships only work if communication is strong, and selective hearing makes it hard to understand the needs and wants of others. In fact, some people may view your refusal to truly listen as a sign that you are manipulating the relationship and making it completely one-sided.

When You Recall the Memory of Not Being Listened to, You’ll Know Why You Need a Change

Acknowledging that you may sometimes suffer from selective listening is not enough — you have to change and be a better partner and friend.

Think about the last time it was clear to you that the person you were talking to had no interest in what you were saying. It was apparent that they didn’t want to hear what you had to say, and even if they were nodding their head, your words were going in one ear and out the other. Frustrating, wasn’t it?

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Why do you think that person was tuning you out? Was it the timing of the conversation? Were you interrupting something important? Was it a deep conversation in which you knew the other person would have opposing views?

No matter what, think about how that conversation has affected every conversation you’ve had with that person after the selective listening experience. Has it changed how you communicate? It’s important to politely ask that person to be open to what you’re saying, but to emphasize that they don’t have to agree with what you voice.

Listening Isn’t Only About Your Ears But Also Your Mind

Choosing to be less selective in your listening does not mean you have to be less selective in your opinions and ideas. Instead, it’s a matter of welcoming differing opinions and allowing yourself to consider them. Even if the end result is the same — you aren’t open-minded about a new idea, or you will never help unload the dishwasher and dust the shelves in the living room — fine. What matters is that you actively listened and made a decision after weighing the options. Imagine the impact that could have on your communication with everyone you encounter.

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Remember, before this article, you may not have realized that you ever listened selectively or that it could negatively affect your relationships. So, be patient with those around you as they try to be more self-aware, too. And hey, you could always casually share this article with them!

Reference

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Heather Poole

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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