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Thread: Listening Blocks:

  1. #1

    Default Listening Blocks:


    Comparing makes it hard to listen because you are always trying to assess who is smarter, more competent, more stable, you or the other. Some people focus on who suffered more, who’s a bigger victim. While someone is talking, you think to yourself: “Could I do it that well?…I’ve had it harder, he doesn’t know what hard is…I earn more than that…My kids are so much brighter.” You can’t let much in because you are too busy seeing if you measure up.

    The mind reader does not pay much attention to what people say. In fact, he often distrusts it. He’s trying to figure out what the other person is really thinking and feeling. “She says she wants to go to the show, but I’ll bet she is tired and wants to relax. She might be resentful if I pushed her when she doesn’t want to go.” The mind reader pays less attention to words than to intonations and subtle cues in an effort to see through to the truth. This might be good if you are accurate, but really bad if not.

    If you are a mind reader, you probably make assumptions about what other people really mean about you when they talk to you. “He probably thinks I am stupid… She’s turned off by my shyness…” these notions are born of intuition, vague misgivings and hunches, but have little to do with what the person is actually saying to you.

    You don’t have time to listen when you are rehearsing what to say. Your attention is on the preparation and crafting of your next comment. You have to look interested, but your mind is going a mile a minute because you’ve got a story to tell, or a point to make. Some people rehearse whole chains of responses: “I’ll say, then he’ll say, then I’ll say,” and so on.

    When you filter, you listen to some things and not to others. You pay only enough attention to see if someone’s angry, or unhappy or if you’re in emotional danger. Once assured that the communication contains none of those things, you let your mind wander. One woman listens just enough to her son to learn if he is fighting again at school. Relieved to hear that he isn’t, she begins thinking about her shopping list. A young man quickly ascertains what kind of mood his girlfriend is in. If she sees happy as she describes her day, his thoughts begin wandering.

    Another way that people filter is simply to avoid hearing certain things- particularly anything threatening, negative, critical or unpleasant. It’s as if the words were never said: You simply have no memory of them.

    5. JUDGING
    Negative labels have enormous power. If you prejudge someone as stupid or nuts or unqualified, you don’t pay much attention to what they say. You’ve already written them off. Hastily judging a statement as immoral, hypocritical, gay, “dweeby”, or insane means you’ve ceased to listen and have begun a knee-jerk reaction. A basic rule of listening is that judgments should be made only after you have heard and evaluated the contents of the message.

    You’re half listening, and something the person says suddenly triggers a chain of private associations. Your neighbor says she’s been laid off, and in a flash you back to the scene where you got fired for playing hearts on those long coffee breaks. Hearts is a great game, there were great nights of hearts years ago on
    Sutter Street
    . And you’re gone, only to return a few minutes later as your neighbor says, “I knew you’d understand, but don’t tell my husband.”

    You are more prone to dreaming when you feel bored or anxious. Everybody
    dreams and you sometimes need to make Herculean efforts to stay tuned in. But if you dream a lot with certain people, it may indicate a lack of commitment to knowing or appreciating them. At the very least, it’s a statement that you don’t value what they have to say very much.

    In this block, you take everything a person tells you and refer it back to your own experience. They want to tell you about a toothache, but that reminds you of the time you had oral surgery to get rid of a wisdom tooth. You launch into your story before they can finish theirs. Everything you hear reminds you of something that you’ve felt, done or suffered. You’re so busy with these exciting tales of your life that there is no time to really hear or get to know the other person.

    You’re the great problem-solver, ready with help and suggestions. You don’t have to hear more than a few sentences before you begin searching for the right advice. However, while you are cooking up suggestions and convincing someone to “just try it,” you may miss what’s most important. You didn’t hear the feelings, and you didn’t acknowledge the person’s pain. He or she still feels basically alone because you couldn’t listen and just be there.

    This block has you arguing and debating with people. The other person never feels heard because you’re so quick to disagree. In fact, a lot of your focus is on finding things to disagree with. You take strong stands, are very clear about your beliefs and preferences. The way to avoid sparring is to repeat back and acknowledge what you have heard. Look for one thing you might agree with and acknowledge that.

    One subtype of sparring is the put-down. You use acerbic or sarcastic remarks to dismiss the other person’s point of view. For example, Helen starts telling Arthur about a problem in biology class. Arthur says: “When are you gonna have enough brains to drop that class?” Al is feeling overwhelmed with the noise from the TV. When he tells Rebecca, she says, “Oh God, not the TV routine again.” The put-down is the standard block to listening in many marriages. It quickly pushes the communication into stereotyped patterns where each person repeats a familiar hostile litany.

    A second type of sparring is discounting. Discounting is for people who can’t stand compliments. “Oh I didn’t do anything…. What do you mean, I was totally lame.…it’s nice of you to say, but it’s really a very poor attempt.” The basic technique of discounting is to run yourself down when you get a compliment. The other person never feels satisfied that you really heard their appreciation. And he’s right…you didn’t.

    Being right means you will go to any lengths (twist the facts, start shouting, make excuses or accusations, call up past sins) to avoid being wrong. You can’t listen to criticism, you can’t be corrected, and you can’t take suggestions to change. Your convictions are unshakable and since you won’t acknowledge that your mistakes are mistakes, you just keep making them.

    This listening block is accomplished by suddenly changing the subject. You derail the train of the conversation when you get bored or uncomfortable with a topic. Another way of derailing is by joking it off. This means that you continually respond to whatever is said with a joke or quip in order to avoid the discomfort or anxiety in seriously listening to the other person.

    “Right…Right…Absolutely…I know…Of course you are…Yes…Really?” You want to be nice, pleasant, supportive. You want people to like you. So you agree with everything. You may half-listen, just enough to get the drift, but you’re not really involved. You are placating rather than tuning in and examining what is being said.

    Taken from my communications class this semester. I'd say I use 10/12 of those every time I am speaking with someone.

    Discuss. Which ones pertain to you and how do you view their usage. Are they bad, good, neither?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Array Lark's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009


    I've been familiar with these or broadly similar ones from NLP or associated theories, I think they're all on the level and you'll see them pretty obviously deployed on forums, in fact its a good way to see how they are used since a lot of people using forums dont treat posts like a form of written communication like a letter, they adopt the mannerism of a verbal conversation.

  3. #3


    That's exactly what I was thinking. In fact I would say I picked up a LOT of these habits after learning about MBTI.

  4. #4
    Honor Thy Inferior Array Such Irony's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    5w6 sp/so
    LII Ne

    Unhappy Guess I'm not that great of a listener

    I probably do all of these some of the time. The ones I have to really watch out for are:

    Guess I'm not that great of a listener.
    5w6 or 9w1 sp/so/sx, I think
    Neutral Good

  5. #5
    Let me count the ways Array HelenOfTroy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    7W6 sp/sx


    probably most common for me are
    comparing, filtering, derailing and, when i'm being an arse, being right. Probably in that order.
    I think the first two could be turned into positives, if it were not just the negs being discussed here.
    "We knew he was someone who had a tragic flaw, that's where his greatness came from"

  6. #6
    L'anima non dimora Array Donna Cecilia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010


    I relate to mind reading, judging and being right.

    For mind reading, I do it all the time. But, after a short while after ending the conversation, I always end up knowing that what my gut feeling told me about the person I had in front of me was correct. So, it seems like I won't give up that habit soon enough.

    Judging is not the same as prejudice. I judge people after they finished saying what they had to say. Not beforehand or while they are speaking. If I write someone off, I won't take what he has to say to me in the future seriously.

    But the last one is my achilles' heel. Even when I speak about light-hearted issues, since I am confident in my knowledge of it, I am (or think that I am) being right. Also, since most of the time I have no idea about how I know what I know, people think that I'm overly arrogant when replying with "I just know", every time they ask me how did I come to a conclusion. But no shouting or recalling past sins.

    "An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise."
    Victor Hugo

    LII/INTj (Analyst) - 1w9 Sp/Sx - RC|O|EI - Melancholy/Choleric

  7. #7
    Permabanned Array
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    Apr 2007
    9w1 sx/sp


    I do a lot of Filtering and Dreaming. Some of the others, just not as much.

  8. #8



    I'm sure that I'll be incorporating this into my master "ball of duct taped theories about people."

    I relate most to these, in order:


    "Sparring" and "Being Right" are probably my least used. I despise those communication styles in other people, so that probably makes sense :doubt:

  9. #9
    4x9 Array cascadeco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    4 so/sp


    I do Comparing, Mind Reading, Rehearsing, and Judging

    Those are the most common for sure
    "...On and on and on and on he strode, far out over the sands, singing wildly to the sea, crying to greet the advent of the life that had cried to him." - James Joyce

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  10. #10
    insert random title here Array Randomnity's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    6w5 sp/sx


    mind reading, rehearsing, dreaming, and advising all to mild degrees - and I purposely do derailing when I'm talking to someone I don't like or who is a bad conversationalist, so the conversation ends sooner. I derail ALL the time with a family member, because the things he often talks about are so boring to me I want to stab out my eyeballs and he never drops them until I change the subject. I resent this and change topics abruptly (rudely). anyway.

    I also do one that's not mentioned, "oooh shiny", and it's by far the most common listening block for me. If something moves, anything - a bird, a piece of paper, a car, I'll have to look at it and lose my train of thought/listening ability. If I see something unusual or interesting, it'll steal all my focus and I'm now only half-listening. Sometimes things will make me think of other things - "dreaming". I'll often be listening to someone and my next phrase is "look at that!" rude, I know. But it's always something cool.
    -end of thread-

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