Listening Blocks

Listening is an incredibly powerful leadership and life skill. But that doesn’t make it easy. There are habits and culturally accepted practices that hold us back from really listening to understand. But the good news is that you can create simple shifts to improve the quality of your listening and inspire others to do the same. This change requires radical self-awareness.

This episode highlights 12 different habits that prevent us from listening – including rehearsing, daydreaming, and placating. We invite you to see with a fresh perspective where your listening gets derailed and to make simple shifts to bring your attention back to listening to understand.

“Good listeners have a huge advantage…they make people ‘feel heard.’ They ‘feel’ that someone really understands their wants, needs and desires. And for good reason; a good listener does care to understand.” – Simon Sinek

Ideas Shared

You can download a summary PDF of the Listening Blocks and tips for being a great listener here.

12 Listening Blocks

Mind Reading – Assuming you know what the other person feels

Rehearsing – Planning what you want to say next

Filtering – Listening only for what’s relevant to you

Judging – Evaluating the speaker and what they say

Daydreaming  – Getting lost in your own thoughts

Identifying – Relating everything you hear in yourself

Advising – Listening to solve or direct

Sparring – Invalidating the speaker through argument or debate

Being Right – Resisting all communication that suggests you are wrong

Derailing – Changing the subject

Comparing – Trying to figure out how you compare to the speaker

Placating – Agreeing too quickly

Source: Messages: The Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay, Ph.D., Martha Davis, Ph.D., and Patrick Fanning

Reflection Questions

  • Which listening block shows up most frequently for me?
  • What new awareness am I taking with me about the quality of my own listening as I learn about listening blocks?
  • What’s one listening block that you could pay attention to this week to improve the quality of your conversations?
  • What’s one thing you could pay attention to this week to improve the quality of your listening? (e.g. set aside technology; ask for a colleague to be your listening accountability partner in a specific meeting)

Resources and Links