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People Can’t Solve Complex Problems in Life Because They Ignore This Basic Skill

People Can’t Solve Complex Problems in Life Because They Ignore This Basic Skill

How often have your words been completely misinterpreted? Or how often have you heard one thing, while an entirely different thing was said in the first place? Chances are – many times. Why does this happen? This is so as many if not most of us, are bad listeners. Listening is an art that makes for happy relationships – be it at home or at work for if we misinterpret what is being said then we enter a vicious cycle of misunderstandings, fights, and heartbreak down the road…

You May Want to Deny It, But 90% of Us Are Poor Listeners

Experts say that as much as 90% are not good listeners and the reason that is so is simple. We speak at the rate of about 125-150 word per minute, but our brains can process up to 600 words per minute. So there is literally a brain lag between what is being said and how fast we can process it. Which is why we easily get distracted when we listen.

Also, the more we work and multitask at the same time, the worse our listening gets. In fact, management consulting company Accenture conducted a research on 3,600 professionals from 30 countries and found that people found it more and more difficult to listen carefully while they doing many different things at the same time. [1]

9 Common Barriers to Effective Listening That Create Complex Problems in Life

The art of being an effective communicator, be it at home or work doesn’t just come from effective talking but also from effective listening. You have to listen to what the other person is saying and then accordingly, but not instantly, react to that… Let’s talk about the common barriers that hinder effective listening, and what we can do to change that to make us better listeners. [2]

Law of Closure: We Fill in the Gap in What Others Say With Our Own Experiences or Assumptions

Say someone is talking to you about their experience of a jungle safari – amidst their long-winded tale of adventure; you switch off and start thinking about your own experience of the same and basically tune out of what the other person is saying. The result? You missed out on their experience and filled in the gaps with your experience – letting you have a rather incorrect picture of what had actually happened to the talker. This is the law of closure, where we tend to fill in any gaps in what others are saying, with our own assumptions or experiences – which leads to an incorrect conclusion of it all.[3]

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The obvious solution is to really listen to what the other person is saying and keep your own experience aside for another day’s story – if you feel you are getting distracted, ask a question or two…

Law of Field: We Easily Get Distracted by the Noises Around Us

When you are listening or trying to listen to someone, it’s easy to get distracted by all that’s around you and start thinking about all that. Say your boss is giving you a set of assignments to do but not in a closed room sans the distractions. So while he’s listing out what needs to be done with instructions on how to do it, you are distracted by the ringing phones, the multi-conversations around you, a sales pitch going on just near you. This means you are likely to miss out on what was being said and inadvertently do your work incorrectly or leave it incomplete – making you a bad listener in the process.

The solution is to ask the talker to move the site to a closed room and then you listen and take notes to make sure nothing important slips away.[4]

Selective Listening: We Only Listen to What We Like to Listen

Many times, we believe what we want and get attached to our beliefs as well. Meaning we become rigid in our principles. What happens then is that when any conversation goes against our principles or beliefs, it gets filtered out. Say you are on a weight loss program and are skipping carbohydrates. You believe this to be healthy but others may have a different viewpoint that you may be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals when you do so… But when they talk to you about this, you basically stop listening and end up missing out on some valuable advice or information; you might wish you had listened to, at a later stage.

The solution is to be a tad more open-minded and at least listen to other viewpoints, and then make an informed decision about the step you are going to take.[5]

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We Get Stuck at a Particular Point and Forget About the Whole Story

Sometimes, when something has been said, we get so engrossed in one point that our mind tends to stay around it and misses the current conversation happening around us. It could be something interesting, shocking or even difficult to comprehend. Say at an annual meeting, the company announces a withdrawal of a benefit, in order to cut costs. Say that benefit was something great enough to keep you holding onto that job. Gasp! You will now keep thinking about this point, picking at it in your head, and miss all that came after that shocking announcement. Even if the company announced bonuses or a new benefit – in your head you are still mulling the same and going through the motions of listening, without actually listening…

Shake off that wandering thought process and get the whole picture right, before you do something about it.[6]

We Become Judgmental and Shut Our Ears Too Early

So sometimes, we just don’t like what has been said, or the way it was said. I remember once when we are at a two-day soft skills training trip, that the speaker made a random comment about an outfit she thought was rather dowdy, without pointing anyone out – something very close to what I was wearing. Now, this is the point where I kind of stopped listening to what she had to say because I did not like her views – thus I judged her to be an ineffective speaker and spent the rest of the 20-minute session doodling away in my notepad. Did the speaker miss out on anything? No. But did I? Yes.

What I should have done is put my resentment aside, and listening to what all she had to say – I might have learned something new about dressing etiquette for sure. [7]

We’re Mesmerized by the Charm of the Speaker and Forget What They Say

What if the speaker who is talking is the best-looking person you ever met or saw? Then very often, our brains get so distracted by the charm and the pleasing visual imagery that we see, that we just concentrate on that and don’t actually listen to what is being said. What if the speaker is wearing a dress that we so wanted to buy but couldn’t find in our size? Then our mind might just get so distracted by thoughts of that dress that we’d simply stop listening to what is being said.

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The solution is to stop judging a book by its cover – listen to what is being said because that is what you are there for.

We Fail to Go Beyond the Literal Meaning of What Is Said

Again, you don’t always have to take things literally. Many times, we say one thing but mean it in a different way entirely – at this point in time, it is for the listener to take things in the right spirit – and not in the literal meaning of the words. If you as an employee are asking for leave, and the crabby boss sarcastically gives you the go ahead, citing that actually, you should be the boss – is the applied-for leave actually granted? No – this is a cue for you to apologize and backtrack, or if the need is urgent explain the need to your boss and plead your case again.

Literal is not always true – you have picked the emotional cues in what is being said as well.

We Multitask and Mistake Hearing for Listening

We are often doing so many things together, that we might hear what is being said but don’t listen to it at all. Say your spouse is making a complaint about him or her doing the lion’s share of work at home and while you are hearing the words, you are not really listening to the pain and angst behind it… What is going to happen then? You will not work out a solution simply because while you heard the words, they didn’t really register at all. The problem is merely going to snowball into a bigger one.

The solution is to keep those phones, laptops and TV remotes aside and actually listen to what is being said – and then offer a helping hand when you can. [8]

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We Can’t Wait to Draft the Instant Response in Our Minds

Again, many a time, we are in such a hurry to be the first to respond to a question being asked, especially when in a group – that we don’t really listen to the question and respond to what we thought was asked instead. Thus we end up playing the fool. We get so busy in formulating a reply or an instant response that we limit our listening and start thinking instead and very often miss the gist of what was being said.

The solution is to first listen, understand and then respond to it if a response is needed in the first place. For all you know, the question being asked was a rhetorical one.[9]

When we are listening, we have to keep our mind free and focused on what is being said, keeping the distractions and the mind wandering at bay. To be an effective worker or a caring human being – you have to improve your listening skills to understand the people around you and to make sure that you don’t take what they said in the wrong sense. Just open your ears, mind, and heart and listen…

Reference

[1] Fast Company: New Research Shows We’re All Bad Listeners
[2] Ian Brown Lee: The 8 Principles of Effective Listening
[3] CNX: Gestalt Principles
[4] The Law of Distraction & Interruption: The Law
[5] SA Matters: Selective Listening Can Be A Barrier
[6] Boundless: Enhance Your Listening Skills
[7] Zen Habits: A Simple Method To Stop Being Judgmental
[8] Skills You Need: Ineffective Listening
[9] US Department of State: Active Listening

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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