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Listening Errors

  1. Calling the subject or speaker uninteresting or boring

    Calling the subject or speaker uninteresting or boring allows you to "distance" from the listening experience-to lose focus-and to daydream, chat, or sleep.

    The Efficient Listener says, "As long as I'm here, I'll focus on what's going on to gain as much as I can."

  2. Criticizing the speaker's delivery

    Criticizing the speaker's delivery allows you to distract yourself from the content of the message by focusing on the presentation.

    The Efficient Listener, while possibly noting that the speaker's delivery is sub par, nevertheless pays attention to the content and reserves judgment until the talk is over.

  3. Getting worked-up with disagreements with the speaker's message

    If you allow yourself to get caught up in challenging or contradicting the speaker (even silently in your mind), you no longer are listening.

    The Efficient Listener pays attention to gather all the information before thinking about challenging what is said.

  4. Listening only for facts

    If you listen only for facts, while focusing on getting one fact, you lose getting others.

    The Efficient Listener listens for main ideas and themes, and notes facts that illustrate and support the main ideas. By having a structure, more facts are remembered.

  5. Trying to outline the talk

    Trying to outline the talk will work if the speaker's remarks are themselves organized in a pattern. If not, the main ideas and themes can be lost while trying to find a pattern.

    The Efficient Listener notes main themes and ideas and organizes them later.

  6. Faking attention

    Faking attention is being present in body and not in mind.

    The Efficient Listener accepts that attention will wander and learns to become aware of when attention is lost and to refocus the mind.

  7. Tolerating or creating distractions

    If someone is creating a distraction, tell the person that the behavior is distracting. If you cannot tell the person, raise your hand and ask the speaker to ask for order. If you lose your focus and create distraction, either take a deep breath to center yourself or excuse yourself from the talk so as not to distract others.

  8. Evading or avoiding difficult material

    Evading or avoiding difficult material is a form of giving up. If you do not understand the material, rather than tune out, use your curiosity to try to learn something.

  9. Letting emotion-laden words throw you off focus

    Responding verbally of silently in your mind to emotionally-charged ideas can distract you from the content. If you have a reaction to what is said, note it in your mind or jot down a word or two about is and then refocus your attention.

  10. Letting your mind wander

    It's natural for your mind to wander in order to fill the time between what you hear and what is said. People process what they hear in less time than it takes a speaker to talk. When you notice your mind wandering, re-focus your attention on the speaker, perhaps by concentrating on taking notes.

    The Effective Listener learns to "be still" by quieting the mind in order to keep focused during interims.

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Work Cited: Golanty, Eric Ph.D. Ten Common Listening Errors. Online Posting. 1996-2000 Las Positas College. 25 May 2001. <> Lkd. TutorTutor, 25 May 2001. <>