12 Blocks to Active Listening

Communication is central to any type of interaction and relationship. Most relationship problems can be overcome if individuals improve their communication skills, and replace passive, aggressive and passive-aggressive communication with more assertiveness.

What we often fail to comprehend is that active and assertive listening is THE most important communication skill. In fact, we usually put more effort in how we can get our point across and become more assertive in what we ask and express, than actually realize the significance of our listening skills. We tend to forget that communication is a mutual process of listening to the other and expressing ourselves.

Today our focus will be what prevents us from listening actively and attentively. By recognizing the 12 blocks to listening and realizing when we engage in those, we can subsequently improve our listening skills. This will inevitably bring positive changes in the way we communicate with others.

After all, listening does mean not just hearing with our ears, but actively being mindful and attentive of what is being expressed, so that we first understand it fully. You are what you listen to- and this does not only apply to music!

The 12 Blocks to Active Listening

If you often find yourself in situations that you cannot communicate with someone properly, maybe you are also not listening properly.

Of course it is understandable that we can not always give our full attention to whoever is talking to us- yet understanding what prevents us from doing so is a first step in making necessary adjustments in order to improve our communication. Let’s look at 12 common blocks to listening.

1. Mind Reading

Have you ever caught yourself drifting away from what the other person is saying, because you are already making an assumption in your mind about what they will say?

Although this is to some extent natural and automatic in many conversations, and it may suggest that you understand the other quite well so that you can already guess what they’re about to say, mind reading can become an obstacle in your communication with others.

The reason for this is, the more time you invest in trying to figure out what will be said next, the less involved you are with the present moment and the other person.

After all, no matter how well you know and understand your conversational partner, you are not really in their head- so it is beneficial to actually listen to them rather than presuming you know their next sentence before they utter it.

2. Rehearsing

We can all be guilty of this occasionally; rehearsing means preparing what you will respond next, before your partner has finished talking.

This can often be accompanied by interrupting the other, to say what popped in your mind- which can take a negative turn quite easily, because interrupting is regarded as quite offensive and aggressive and can trigger a defensive attitude of the other person.

Then your focus is on constructing your next argument, not on the person talking to you. Consequently, you focus on yourself and not the other- but listening is all about the other.

It can therefore be worthwhile to pay close attention to them for a bit- it won’t be long until you also have a chance to speak. In addition, the more attentively you listen, the better you will absorb and understand the other’s message- so the more authentic you can be in your response.

3. Filtering

Filtering means having selective attention only to certain types of information, and letting your mind drift away otherwise.

We tend to use filtering when we want to ensure we are not threatened, or when we expect or wish to hear specific things from the other.

For instance, if you feel you are in danger if the other becomes upset, your attention may be more tuned to cues of increased emotion of the other. If the threatening cue is not present, then you can be distracted by your own thoughts and lose concentration.

Understandably, this is a block to effective communication because you do not receive the whole message of whatever the other wants to say- only fragments of it. You basically hear only what you want to hear.

4. Judging

Judging means having a negative opinion that is already firmly established about the other person, or making negative criticism in your mind about what they are saying.

By making judgements or assessing that the other person is not worth listening to, you close yourself from actually hearing what they have to say. Being open and flexible is always an advantage in communication.

5. Daydreaming

Something the other just said triggered a memory, image or thought in your mind- and then you got carried away on your train of thought.

You know how it goes, one thought let to another, and another, and off you go! Suddenly you are disconnected from your partner, lost in your own mind, drifting away. Or you simply lost interest and therefore concentration.

Often when you return to the conversation, you have absolutely no idea of what has been said so far. You may feel confused or awkward. This can be very embarrassing in some occasions, especially when you ask a question about something that has already been expressed while you were off somewhere far. It is quite obvious that such a thing is disrespectful to the other person.

Seek First To Understand Quotes By Stephen Covey
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What are you so Busy About?

When was the last time you made the time to be silent and still? When was the last time you carved out a chunk of time to enjoy the power of solitude to restore, refocus and revitalize your mind, body and spirit?   

All of the great wisdom traditions of the world have arrived at the same conclusion: to reconnect with who you really are as a person and to come to know the glory that rests within you, you must find the time to be silent on a regular basis. Sure, you are busy. But as Thoreau said: “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is what are you so busy about?”   

The importance of silence makes me think about the story of an old lighthouse keeper. The man had only a limited amount of oil to keep his beacon lit so that passing ships could avoid the rocky shores. One night, a man who lived close by needed to borrow some of this precious commodity to light his home, so the lighthouse keeper gave him some of his own. Another night, a traveler begged for some oil to light his lamp so he could keep on travelling. The lighthouse keeper also complied with this request and gave him the amount he needed. The next night, the lighthouse keeper was awakened by a mother banging on his door. She prayed for some oil so that she could illuminate her home and feed her family. Again he agreed. Soon all his oil was gone and his beacon went out. Many ships ran aground and many lives were lost because the lighthouse keeper forgot to focus on his priority. He neglected his primary duty and paid a high price.

Experiencing solitude, for even a few minutes a day, will keep you centered on your highest life priorities and help you avoid the neglect that pervades the lives of so many of us.     And saying that you don’t have enough time to be silent on a regular basis is a lot like saying you are too busy driving to stop for gas – eventually it will catch up with you.

Robin Sharma from Who Will Cry When you Die?

Emotions: The Hidden Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Dr. Stephen Sinatra

Emotions The Hidden Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Early in my career, as part of my effort to understand how our emotions affect heart health, I trained as a psychotherapist. I discovered then that our heart is indeed much more than a pump.

We all know the sayings, “you touched my heart,” “you stole my heart,” and “my heart is broken.” The heart is the only organ in the body that carries such emotionally charged meaning. But more importantly, these sayings are not simply images; they can describe real, physical, medical events in the heart. The “heavy heart” that comes with sadness, for example, can actually lead to chest pain.

Our emotions and our stresses are far bigger risk factors for heart disease than we acknowledge them to be. When stressed, the body floods itself with the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Over time, an overdose of these hormones can lead to symptoms such as heart palpitations, ulcers, stroke, or heart attack. So, although we may tell ourselves that we are not as upset as we think we are, our emotions show themselves in other ways.

Simply put, the body never lies. Do not neglect the emotional risk factors for heart disease. How can you reduce such stressors? Here are 15 ways to keep emotions from putting your heart at risk.

  1. Explore Your Anger. Anger is the Achilles’ heel of the cardiovascular system—a trigger for serious problems, including a heart attack. Your blood vessels constrict and your blood pressure rises. The electrical currents to your heart become unstable. And if you have arterial plaque, anger is like throwing a match into a can of gasoline. The plaque can rupture, and the resulting clots can kill you. 

    One of the best ways to keep anger from becoming a risk factor for heart disease is to release it. Find a place of solitude and scream, yell, or cry. Talk to a friend or visit a skilled psychotherapist to work on your anger. Or, try twisting towels, hitting tennis balls, or punching pillows. It also helps to ask yourself why you feel angry. Recognize that you cannot be effective when you are possessed by anger. If you understand why you’re coming to such an emotional point, you’ll be better able to identify and avoid those triggers……….
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