I’m Sorry What Were You Saying?

In order to accomplish anything in this world we all have to communicate. To make things work or progress we have to communicate effectively. Many problems with any interaction can be traced back to listening. If you have bad listening skills how will you be able to retain information? How will you learn? How will you even talk to another person? Listening is almost like a job or chore. We need to train ourselves to listen effectively. In class sometimes my mind is elsewhere. I am thinking about projects, papers, grades, my future, and more. Before I know it the whole class time has gone by, and haven’t heard anything. This only is going to hurt me and cause more stress than before. You have to thoroughly work and try to understand what you are hearing. If we only select what we want to hear or come to conclusions to fast we could potentially ruin a relationship or interaction with someone. Misunderstanding a person could lead us to say something we don’t mean. We can’t take back what is said. What is said is said. Interpersonal communication is irreversible (Wood, 2012, p. 27).

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Everyone could improve when it comes to listening. Poor listening skills affect all of us. This isn’t something new. It affects work, school, relationships, politics, anything you can think of that requires someone to communicate with others. I am interested in improving listening skills because it has hindered me dearly. My relationships have been hurt and my schoolwork has been hurt thanks to not properly listening to others. I am sure I am not the only one who has faced these types of problems. We have all experienced problems whether we know it or not, that could be could have been prevented by proper listening. An article from University of Colorado states that poor listening skills makes good communication pretty much impossible to achieve. It says that, “no matter how much care one person or group takes to communicate their concerns, values, interests, or needs in a fair, clear, unthreatening way, if the listener is not willing to receive that information in that way, the communication will fail.” Gregory L. Rynders wrote an article on the connection of listening and leadership. Rynders says that listening is the earliest form of communication learned and the most used; however is the least mastered communication skill. So it is important to understand what are the best and worst ways to listen. So what exactly are some of the ways that cause ineffective listening? How can we fix them?

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Some of the obstacles that stop effective listening from happening are the forms of nonlistening. Pseudolistening and monopolizing are two forms that Julia T. Wood (2010) writes about in her book Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters. Pseudolistening is the act of pretending to listen (Wood, 2010, p. 156). We may seem like we are listening, but our minds could be somewhere else. Earlier I mentioned how in class my mind is on other things sometimes, like grades and my future. That could be pseudolistening. This is a problem because we can easily miss information. Monopolizing is when instead of listening to the person talking, we shift the focus of the conversation on ourselves. For example, a friend talks about their favorite movie, but I quickly react by changing the subject to my favorite movie. They are trying to tell me their favorite movie, but I’m not really listening. I’m not showing any interest. All I care about is what my favorite movie is. By dong this there is no opportunity to learn from others (Wood, 2010, p. 157). We can fix these nonlistening barriers by doing what Wood (2010) writes as listening to support others. Two aspects of listening to support others that would help here are to be mindful and paraphrase. By being mindful we are focusing all our attention on the person. We are listening to what is being said, and we are alert. Our mind isn’t anywhere except on the communication at hand. Paraphrasing is when we try to understand what is being said by putting it in our own words. It lets us make sure we are hearing correctly. Here is an example of someone ineffectively listening, then an example of good listening by being mindful and paraphrasing. 

Thanks to these concepts I can now understand when I am not listening thoroughly. I can catch myself and use some of the effective listening skills before it’s too late. Others will benefit off this knowledge in the same way. Even though it is the least mastered communication skill, we can continually try to improve everyday and make the most out of our interactions.




Wood, J. T. (2010). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters (pp. 103-106). Boston, M.A.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.



3 thoughts on “I’m Sorry What Were You Saying?

  1. Zachary Sneed says:

    Is this the theta chi comment page? Like the comments above I agree on the situations you posted. Psuedolistening I believe has the hardest form because of the effects it can have on relationships like you mentioned before. If you act like you are listening to your partner and your partner begins to build trust around you listening to them, once you fail you will take them down twice as hard. I have experienced this by psuedolistening and watching TV and missed out some things that would have helped my relationship.

    I think that monopolizing is just a way of individuals not being satisfied with giving someone else the lime light. I have been in situations when individuals only monopolize everything sometimes talking about stuff that dont even pertain to the subject at hand. I think this is due to their fear of being pushed out of the group so they try to keep as much attention on themselves as possible. The president of one of my organizations only speaks in monopolizing ways and this is a superiority complex brought on with trying to seem always in control.

  2. Ryan Pereira says:

    Matt, I really enjoyed when you mentioned that poor listening skills pretty much make effective communication impossible. When i browsed the study that you posted, I was really amazed that someone actually took the time to do such a study. Even before I saw this, I always believed that it was a personal philosophy of mine that effective communication could not be done well without listening. I also was very interested when you talked about Psuedolistening and Monopolizing. They were two very interesting concepts to grasp.
    In the beginning you did mention that the book said that interpersonal communication is impossible to take back. However, being the cynic that I am, I would challenge that and say that interpersonal communication is difficult to take back, but seen sometimes. When there is interpersonal communication done to someone under the assumption that they were someone else or did something they did not, I would say that is a kind of interpersonal interaction that should and can be taken back.

  3. Steven Sommer says:

    I completely agree that in order to properly communicate one must be a good listener. Another way of being a good listener outside of the general guidelines including staying focused and paying attention is minimal encouraging.

    Minimal encouraging is giving small hints such as “go on” or “tell me more” in order to further understand the problem. By giving these encouragers you are not trying to dominate the conversation, but are trying to learn more about the problem at hand. By doing so we can further our knowledge of the situation at hand and help clarify any confusion during interpersonal communication.

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