What Are the Causes of Poor Listening?

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The causes of poor listening include jumping ahead, lack of concentration, assigning the same importance to everything heard, and processing only certain aspects of what is heard. Jumping ahead involves making a judgment before all information is presented, causing a listener to overlook important parts of what is being presented.

Various physical and psychological conditions can decrease concentration when listening. For example, physical discomfort, volume that is too low, a lack of interest in the subject matter, personal beliefs, stress or distractions can affect concentration.

Giving the same weight to everything heard makes it difficult to isolate and recall important information. This sometimes happens when an individual is making too much effort to listen. Conversely, some individuals focus on particular aspects of what they hear while tuning out information that does not support their values or beliefs.

Listening is different than hearing. While hearing is a physical process, listening is a cognitive skill that involves processing stimuli received by the hearing system. It involves interpreting sound waves and giving them meaning. Linguist Roland Barthes notes that listening involves three levels: picking up on sounds in the environment, digesting what is heard and understanding the impact of what is heard. Listening is also different from obeying commands. An individual can listen to and understand instructions and then choose to ignore them.