5 Mistakes We Make When Listening

5 Mistakes We Make When Listening

Most people rate themselves as a much better listener than they really are. If you’re arguing with me in your head about that fact, you allow me to prove my point. Take just a minute and think through your last five conversations with others. I’m guessing you can recall moments when you either tuned out as the other person was talking, or where you stopped listening and started formulating your response as soon as you heard something that triggered a thought. We all do it. I believe that great communication requires that we become great listeners. In fact, it may be a person’s skill at listening rather than talking that determines whether or not they are a good communicator.

We make many mistakes as listeners and often these mistakes are what derail our conversations. Let’s look at five common listening mistakes and how you can eliminate these behaviors from your next conversation.

1. Don’t Interrupt

I know this seems fairly obvious and definitely isn’t really complicated. Most people would agree that interrupting another when they are talking won’t elevate your status as a good listener. If you have a tendency to interrupt but don’t know why you do it, you probably won’t stop interrupting. Is it because you are impatient? Is it because you feel the need to correct what you believe to be a wrong statement? Is it because you think you know where the other person is headed and want to finish it for them? Is it because you don’t value their ideas and just want to share your opinion? You will have to identify “why” you interrupt if you want to avoid this listening mistake.


2. Don’t Deflect

Deflecting is simply attempting to change the direction of the conversation. When your spouse brings a frustration or grievance to you and you decide to switch subjects or bring in an additional topic, you are deflecting. Some people do this intentionally to avoid taking responsibility or accountability but others do this unconsciously. Listening well will require you to stay on the topic your partner presents.

3. Don’t Blame

Blaming is really just a counter attack. Your spouse says they would like you to stop talking down to them or criticizing them and you respond with, “You do it to me too.” They ask you not to yell at them and you say, “I only yell at you when you attack me.” Those responses may be true but aren’t effective ways to listen. Validation is the only thing that matters at the moment your partner brings an issue to you.


4. Don’t Try To Persuade

If you don’t agree with what is being communicated to you or if you are uncomfortable with where the conversation is going, it can be tempting to try and persuade your partner out of what they are sharing. They share their experience and you respond by telling them how your intention was not to make them feel that way. Your spouse says, “It was really hurtful when you embarrassed me in  front of our friends at dinner last night.” You respond with, “I wasn’t trying to embarrass you. We were all joking around and you were even joking too. Nobody thought any different of you because of that comment.” You are trying to convince them not to feel what they are clearly feeling. That’s not good listening.

5. Don’t Excuse

Nobody likes an excuse no matter how good or valid it sounds. At the end of the day, it’s still an excuse. It doesn’t matter how tired or hungry you were, how bad your day at work was, how the weather change gave you a headache or how someone called you right after we hung up so you forgot to pick up the prescription. You know the saying, “Excuses are like armpits. Everyone has them and they all stink.” Maybe that saying was about opinions but you get the point. Excuses express an unwillingness to take ownership or responsibility. If your spouse brings an issue to you, listen and accept ownership. Don’t respond with an excuse.



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