10 Irritating Listening Habits

Underlying Causes of Poor Listening Habits

In interpersonal communication Opens in new window, talking to someone who has great listening skills can be satisfying.

On the other hand, talking to someone who has poor listening skills, can be frustrating and leave us feeling disconnected and discontent.

Some poor listening habits are fairly common and quite obvious to the speaker. The International Listening Association Opens in new window has outlined a list of the 10 most irritating listening habits.

If you were to make a list of your own, it would probably look similar to theirs. Their list includes the following:

  1. Interrupting the speaker
  2. Not looking at the speaker
  3. Rushing the speaker
  4. Showing interest in something else
  5. Finishing the speaker’s thoughts
  6. Not responding to requests
  7. Saying, “Yes, but ...”
  8. Topping the speaker’s story
  9. Forgetting what was talked about
  10. Asking too many questions

Most of these irritating habits result from one of two underlying causes.

The first is listeners who are focused on their own agenda and what they want to say rather than on the speaker.

When listeners are thinking about their turn to talk rather than thinking about the speaker’s concerns, they tend to do things such as interrupt, rush the speaker, finish the speaker’s thoughts, and top the speaker’s story.

The second cause of poor listening habits is simply a listener who isn’t paying attention.

Other forms of poor listening habits are discussed in brief below:

1.   Selecting

Most people tend to listen only for facts. By merely paying attention to facts alone, there is a tendency that you forget to locate the main idea.

2.   Fidgeting

While someone is talking and your body languageOpens in new window signals impatience; it tells the speaker that you are bored or not interested in the conversation. This often discourages the speaker from continuing.

Think about the nonverbal messages you convey to the speaker when you scratch your head, pull on your earlobe or swing your feet while he or she is speaking.

3.   Lacking concentration

This is a chief cause of poor listening. If you allow your mind to wander during a conversation and perhaps think about what you are going to do later on, you are unlikely to pick up the ideas that being expressed or remember them.

You are also unlikely to provide the speaker with the feedbackOpens in new window that tells him or her that you are listening and are interested in what is being said.

4.   Faking attention

Some people tend to fake attention to seemingly appear to be listening. Such behaviour was perhaps necessary as part of our socialization.

Faked attention seriously constitutes barrier to effective listening and those who fake attention often find it hard to concentrate even when they want to.

5.   Avoiding difficult and uninteresting material

Some people tend to switch off attention when what is being said is difficult, unfamiliar or simply uninteresting. If we do this often, this turning off becomes a persistent pattern.

6.   Judging delivery

Sometimes we are so concerned with how the speaker says something that we pay scant attention to what he or she is actually saying.

Beside poor listening habits, there are other barriers that have an equally negative effect on our ability to listen well.

The general term used to describe anything that interferes with the communication process is noise.

With respect to listening, noiseOpens in new window refers not only to loud sounds, but to anything that distracts us from listening. We call such interferences listening barriersOpens in new window.