Ways to Minimize Distractions  

Santta 61M
4 posts
6/22/2006 7:56 pm

Last Read:
7/4/2006 11:47 am

Ways to Minimize Distractions

There are lots of potential distractions. If you can't avoid
them, minimize them. You do that by focusing totally on the
speaker and paying attention. Here are four specific
techniques that will help you concentrate while listening:

1. Take a deep breath. This will prevent you from
interrupting, and will provide your brain with invigorating
oxygen. Try it now, and as you're doing it, try to speak. It
doesn't work very well, does it?

2. Consciously decide to listen. No matter who's
speaking, pay attention and listen for information that's
particularly interesting or useful. You never know what you
might learn. As show-biz wit Wilson Mizner once said, "A good
listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he
knows something."

3. Mentally paraphrase what the speaker is saying. This
will prevent you from daydreaming about irrelevant and
superfluous topics. You'll concentrate on the speaker instead
of yourself.

4. Maintain eye contact. Where your eyes focus, your ears
follow. You're most likely to listen to what you are looking

So, if you can't eliminate a distraction, use one or more of
these techniques-breathe deeply, decide to listen, paraphrase,
or maintain eye contact. They'll help you handle the

There are five basic reasons we fail to listen well. First,
listening takes effort. As I said, it's more than just keeping
quiet. It means really concentrating on the other person. An
active listener registers increased blood pressure, a higher
pulse rate, and more perspiration. Because it takes so much
effort, a lot of people just don't listen.

Second, there's now enormous competition for our attention
from radio, TV, movies, computers, books and magazines, and
much more. With all these incoming stimuli, we've learned to
screen out information we deem irrelevant. Unfortunately, we
also screen out things that are important.

Here's a third reason why we don't listen well: We think we
already know what someone is going to say. We assume that we
have a full understanding right from the start, so we jump in
and interrupt. We don't take the time required to hear people

The fourth reason has to do with the speed gap-the difference
between how fast we talk and how fast we listen. The average
person speaks at about 135 to 175 words a minute, but
comprehends at 400 to 500 words a minute. For the person who's
not listening well, that's plenty of time to jump to
conclusions, daydream, plan a reply, or mentally argue with
the speaker. At least that's how poor listeners spend the

And the fifth reason we don't listen well is because we don't
know how. We do more listening than speaking, reading, or
writing. But I bet you've never had a course in listening,
have you?

I think listening is the most neglected and least understood
of all the aspects of communication. And, largely, this weak
link springs from bad habits. In short, we haven't been
trained to listen.

An untrained listener is likely to understand and retain only
50 percent of a conversation moments after it's finished. This
retention rate drops to an even less impressive 25 percent
just 48 hours later. So an untrained listener's recall of a
conversation that took place more than a couple of days ago
will always be incomplete and usually inaccurate. No wonder
people seldom agree about what's been discussed!

angelofmercy5 60F
17881 posts
6/22/2006 8:12 pm

What a great post! Thank you.

Santta 61M

6/23/2006 6:12 pm

You are welcome!

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