Barriers to Listening Process: Meaning, types, and How to Overcome

Barriers to Listening

Barriers to listening process refer to the obstacles or problems occurring in the process of listening. The factors which act as impediments to effective listening can be classified into the following:

Physical Barriers

Any physical disturbance or obstacle can make the process of listening ineffective. Noise in the background, uncomfortable sitting position, or physical distance between the speaker and listener can contribute to poor listening.

When there is noise and all kinds of sounds, it is impossible to concentrate and listen to anything properly. Physical discomfort can cause severe distraction and the listening process gets disrupted.

Overcoming the Physical Barriers to Listening

  • Be sure that there is no noise or sounds coming from outside. If need be close the door or even get the noise absorption treatment done

  • In all meetings and conferences, interviews or any type of serious discussion, the mobile phone, and other phones must be switched off.

  • It should be ensured that all seating arrangements are such that the sofas and chairs are comfortable to sit on.

Psychological Barriers

the most common type of barrier is a psychological barrier like the listener not being mentally present when the speaker speaks., or not being in a proper state of mind to listen. Any emotional disturbance will make the listener incapable of effective listening.

Linguistic Barriers

If the message cannot be decoded properly during the listening process, it will adversely affect communication. An incorrectly decoded message can result in confusion and misunderstanding. There are so many languages and dialects in our country that misunderstanding the news is a common practice.

Overcoming the Linguistic Barriers to Listening

  • The speaker should speak the language which the audience understands.

  • The speaker must keep in mind the educational, social, and cultural background of the listeners.

  • The speaker must not use ambiguous language that can be interpreted differently by different people.

  • The listeners should be trained to ask questions and clarify any doubts they have.

Cultural Barriers

If the speaker and listener belong to different social, cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds, communication will suffer. It is the listeners who decode and interpret the meaning of the message and that depends upon the frame of mind of the listener.

Different people have different values and beliefs because of their different backgrounds, this decides their perception and attitude toward the world.

The speaker should not assume that the listeners also have the same perception as theirs because that can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

Rules for Good Listening

Here are some important rules for Good Listening:

Stop Talking

It is the basic principle; you can‘t listen when you are talking. A listener should understand that his role is to listen and he must concentrate on that. Response in monosyllables by saying ―yes, ok, go on, etc

Stop Thinking

It means to stop thinking of anything else except concentrating on what is being spoken. When you are thinking of something, your attention gets diverted or diluted and that does not contribute to listening.

No Distractions

In order to listen properly, you should ensure that there is no distraction like a phone call or someone entering the room with a cup of tea or a file that needs to be signed. Mobiles should be switched off.

Do Not Let Your Mind Wander

When the speaker is speaking the listener‘s mind should not be wandering. One of the reasons of listener‘s mind goes here and there is that the listener can listen much faster than the speaker can speak. The slowness of speech gives spare time to the listener to think of other things.

Be Patient to Listen

Patience is the key to good listening. One may be in hurry to ask questions one has in mind. But it is often the case that if one waits for some more time the question gets answered without asking. Let the speaker say the complete thing and never jump to conclusions.

Have Empathy for the speaker

It is easy to sit as an audience and find faults with the speaker. You should always put yourself in the shoes of the speaker and then assess the situation; only then will you be able to understand the speaker‘s perspective properly.

Take Suitable Notes

It is important to take notes of the main points being made by the speaker. You can use them to clarify any doubts and also such notes can become reference material for use at a later stage.


What are the Barriers to Listening?

Barriers to Listening:
1. Physical Barriers
2. Psychological Barriers
3. Linguistic Barriers
4. Cultural Barriers

What are the ways to overcome Listening Barriers?

5 Ways to Overcome Listening Barriers:
1. Be Patient to Listen
2. Have Empathy for the speaker
3. Take Suitable Notes on what the speaker’s point is
4. Do Not Let Your Mind Wander
5. No Distractions

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