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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

More by this author

Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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