Identify and Reduce Distractions

Learning Objectives

Describe strategies to identify distractions while listening.

It goes almost without saying that technology plays a large role in many people’s lives. There are those who rely on spending time on their phones to surf the web, connect with friends, read news, or interact on social media. Not everyone does this, nor does everyone have this kind of technology. For those who do, technology can be a large distractor.

Distractions are those experiences, events, or items that pull one’s attention away from what they are doing or to whom they are listening or speaking. Distractions can be a huge barrier to listening, but don’t have to be. One strategy is to identify distractors. Just knowing what distracts you can assist you with designing your communication around lessening these distractions. Without distractors, you can be an active listener.

A sports bar

If you love sports, a sports bar can be a distracting place to have a conversation.

As an example, Sue loves sports. She wants to meet with a friend to have a serious conversation. Now, since Sue is a big sports fan, it is not the best idea to ask her friend to meet her at a sports bar with many televisions playing various games. Sue will find herself very distracted as she might want to watch her favorite team play. It will not be possible for Sue and her friend to have a personal conversation. Sue made arrangements to meet her friend at a local coffee shop where televisions are not present and she is able to communicate effectively—both while speaking and listening.

To illustrate further, there are many people who go out to dinner together and have everyone place their phone to the side. This happens because people have identified their phones as a distraction and have created a way to eliminate this distraction. Parents might tell their kids that there are no phones at the table during meals, or teachers might have students place their phones in a bucket at the classroom door before sitting.

In each case, these distractions were identified and a strategy was adopted to reduce being sidetracked from the communicative event. This identification and thus action is important if you want to speak and listen well.

To watch: Julian Treasure

In this video, sound expert Julian Treasure suggests ways to listen more effectively.

You can view the transcript for “5 ways to listen better | Julian Treasure” here (opens in new window).

What to watch for:

As one might expect, Treasure uses audio effects very effectively in his speech, especially to suggest the ways in which distractions can interfere with our ability to listen to each other. Audio effects can be tricky to use technically (sound systems are notoriously unpredictable), but when they’re used well, they can make your audience sit up and take notice.