12 Blocks That Prevent You From Listening Fully

by Sarah Bedrick

I’m not the best listener, and I know it.

Often times I find myself going into problem-solving mode after hearing just a few sentences of a person’s problem.

Once I feel like I’ve heard enough to understand the situation, I will “yes” the person so we can move on.

And sometimes, I find myself derailing a conversation when I get bored (but I think that could also be undiagnosed ADHD).

Another thing I know; I’m not alone.

listening skills

In my coaching program, I learned that there are three levels of listening, and most people in most conversations don’t go past the first one.

Level one listening is when you’re primarily listening to yourself, or your own thoughts or agenda. You’re either thinking about what you’re going to say next, already thinking about how you’ll solve their problem or a whole host of other things. When you’re in level one listening, you’re not really listening, and you’re certainly not fully hearing the other.

Listening is a skill that needs to be developed and is a central tenant of communication.

We are social creatures, and we strive to be heard, seen, valued and belong.

If you’re never fully listening to someone, your relationship will remain surface level.

You also miss out on critical opportunities to grow — everyone’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences are learning moments.

And who doesn’t want to be an excellent listener? Some of the world’s most successful people listen so masterfully; they pick up on messages others don’t even know were being communicated.

Ever since my interpersonal communications class in college, I’ve been obsessed with communication. As it’s a life-long passion, I recently picked up a brilliant book from the ’80s (yes, the 80s!) titled “Messages: The Communication Skills Book,” which contains so many beautiful communication lessons that still hold 40 years later.

In it, the book highlights 12 errors in listening we regularly commit (some more than others), that prevent us from hearing the other person.

The 12 blocks to listening are:

  1. Comparing: Trying to assess who is smarter, more powerful, competent, emotionally healthy, etc.
  2. Mind-reading: Looking past content to what the person is really thinking/feeling.
  3. Rehearsing: Thinking of what you’ll say next.
  4. Filtering: When you listen to some things but not others. If you only hear enough to know if the person is angry, unhappy, or if you’re in emotional danger. It’s also selective hearing when a person filters to avoid hearing anything critical or unpleasant.
  5. Judging: Applying a negative label to someone too early, which results in not paying too much attention to what they say. Generally, judgments should only occur after you’ve heard and evaluated the content of the message.
  6. Dreaming: Temporarily checking out of a conversation to think about something else, or because something in the discussion reminded you of something else.
  7. Identifying: Referring everything you hear back to your own relevant experience.
  8. Advising: You go into problem-solving mode.
  9. Sparring: Always looking for things to disagree with, or looking for wholes in their story or thinking.
  10. Being right: Your convictions are unwavering and will go to any lengths to be correct.
  11. Derailing: Suddenly changing the subject when you get bored or uncomfortable.
  12. Placating: You agree with everything to be liked or to get the person to stop talking.

If knowledge is power, consider yourself powerful.

Take a moment to consider which ones do you commit?

I recently shared this information on Facebook, Instagram, and my colleagues, and what happened next was beautiful. It spurred deep levels of self-reflection and courageous conversations. I received messages and texts from friends detailing their most prominent blocks, when they find themselves using them, with who and also highlighted the ones they saw in me. Talk about vulnerability and connection.

That is the level of self-awareness needed to make a change.


This post was originally published on Medium.com.