couples actively listening, San Diego marriage counselingObstacles to Good Listening

Real listening is a skill that takes practice and an honest look into how you deal with the world. If you tend to take a distrustful or combative stance toward other people most of the time, it may be hard to engage in healthy and open listening. The same holds true if you need to please others or form dependent relationships with other people much of the time- it becomes hard to truly hear what they are trying to say…and you will hear only what you need to hear.

Take a look at some of the common obstacles to active listening that typically interfere with healthy communication. Learn to recognize them when they are happening. And remember that obstacles can usually be removed.

Being Judgmental: When you have already made a negative judgment about someone, you will stop listening openly to what they have to say. You may listen only to gather evidence that supports your negative opinion of the other person. Unfortunately, if you are not able to listen to the totality of what the person is saying, you will stay locked into your negative opinion.

Rehearsing: Your mind actively creates your argument against the speaker’s point of view as it is being presented. This implies that you have your own establishes opinion and that you are closed to what the other has to say.

Filtering: You will hear some things that the other person talks about, but not everything. There may be some topics, like the speaker’s anger toward you, which you simply block out because you aren’t as ready to deal with them as the other person might be. Filtering may be helpful when it is used to lessen the impact of bringing up an avoided topic, but continuing it for long usually means that it is best to examine the meaning behind your need to shut out some of the information.

Advising: Sometimes people just need to be heard. We don’t have to fix every problem the other person talks about. Giving advice instead of just listening may make us feel needed, or it may be a way of distancing ourselves from hearing the other’s true feelings. To tell someone else how they should feel or behave can be a way of belittling them o telling them that they are not to be trusted. Unless advice is asked for, it may be best not to give it.

Mind reading: You may disregard what your partner is saying and try to figure out what he or she is really trying to say. You are acting like an expert on your partner’s feelings, but this deprives your partner of the ability to communicate freely and with candor- and for you to understand your partner’s stated point of view.

Pleasing: you are concerned about being nice, keeping the peace, and placating that you’ll jump in to just to keep everything happy and smooth. It may be helpful to look into why you feel compelled to do this and what it might mean for your relationship. Again, the desire to please prevents you from hearing what your partner really need to say.

Deflecting: Whenever a certain topic is brought up that you feel uncomfortable with, you redirect the conversation to something else. You’ll tell a joke or change the subject, even if the topic is of genuine concern to your partner.

Good Communicators Are Active Listeners

Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT