1318 Textbook Outline Chapter 6: Mindful Listening


I. Listening is a process that involves our ears, minds, and hearts; whereas hearing is an activity that involves sound waves stimulating our ear drums.

A. Being mindful involves paying complete attention to what is happening in an interaction at that moment in time without imposing our own thoughts,  feelings, or judgments on others.

B. Hearing is when we physically receive the sound waves.

C. To listen, we also need to select and organize the many stimuli that are part of a conversation.

D. Once we select, take in, and organize the stimuli, we attach meaning to or interpret the messages.

E. As we engage in communication, we use both verbal and nonverbal means to indicate we are listening.

F. After a particular interaction has ended, remembering what was exchanged is the last part of the listening process.

II. There are two main categories of obstacles or barriers to effective listening as well as examples of times when we do not listen at all.

A. Obstacles within the situation are those situational factors we cannot control.

1. Message overload occurs because we cannot take in all communication with the same level of mindfulness.

2. Message complexity occurs when the messages are too detailed, use technical terms, or contain many difficult connections between the various sentence parts.

3. Noise is any verbal or nonverbal stimuli in the environment that keep us from being good listeners.

B. The other set of listening barriers are internal obstacles, which are those that we as individuals can control.

1. Preoccupation happens when we are so caught up in what is happening with us that we forget to pay careful attention to what is happening in our interaction with another person or people.

2. Prejudgment happens when we think we know what others are going to say before they say it, or we tune them out because we believe they have nothing to offer.

3. Emotionally loaded language can “push our buttons,” either positively or negatively, and we end up tuning out the other person.

4. Because effective listening requires so much energy, there are times when a lack of effort (time or energy) hinders us.

5. Sometimes we forget that different types of interactions call for different types of listening; similarly, we sometimes forget that people with different experiences have learned different speaking and listening styles.

C. In addition to barriers to listening, there are times when we engage in nonlistening behaviors.

1. Pseudolistening is when we pretend that we are paying full attention to a communication interaction.

2. Monopolizing occurs when we are constantly trying to redirect the communication back to ourselves and our concerns without giving others the opportunity to complete their thoughts.

3. Selective listening happens when we focus only on certain aspects of a conversation, either those with which we do not agree or those that do not interest us at the moment.

4. We engage in defensive listening when we assume a message has negative connotations (relational level meanings) even though the person did not intend to criticize, attack, or be hostile toward us.

5. When we ambush another person, we listen only for information that will help us attack the other person and/or that person’s ideas.

6. Literal listening is ignoring the relational level of meaning.

III. In different situations, we listen to accomplish different communication goals.

A. Sometimes we are interested in the pleasure or enjoyment we receive from listening to a particular type of communication.

B. To gather and evaluate information others provide we need to be mindful, control obstacles, ask questions, and create devices to help us remember and organize information.

C. Listening to support others requires that we are mindful, suspend judgment, understand the other person’s perspective on the situation, paraphrase what has been said to check the accuracy of our interpretations, use minimal encouragers, ask questions, and support the person even if we do not support the content or ideas expressed.

IV. Three listening guidelines reinforce effective practices.

A. Being mindful involves listening fully to what is happening.

B. Adapting our listening to the situation at hand, our goals, the others’ goals, and the individuals involved makes us better able to understand and respond appropriately during and after the interaction.

C. Putting forth the necessary effort to listen actively focuses our attention on the communication and away from the potential distractions/barriers we often encounter.


Key Concepts


defensive listening



listening for information

listening for pleasure

listening to support others

literal listening


minimal encouragers








selective listening