The problem of ineffective listening is applicable to a wide variety of situations. As Ronald B. Adler and Neil Towne (1998) pointed out in their book, Looking Out, Looking In: Interpersonal Communications, listening constitutes an integral part of life for people in a wide variety of settings. The quality of the communication between lecturers and students, employers and employees, clients and service providers, or among family members and friends is highly dependent on the listening skills of the parties involved.
In spite of the importance of effective listening, most people demonstrate their inability to listen effectively, thus undermining effective communication. Adler and Towne (1998), along with Johnson (1996) highlighted the following characteristics of ineffective listening. The identification of these characteristics is also accompanied by a discussion of the negative impact on the outcomes of the communication process:
Pretending to listen: Individuals who exhibit this characteristic project the appearance of listening attentively even though their mind may be engaged in daydreaming or preparing their responses to the speaker's earlier remarks. Adler and Towne (1998) cited a study of 195 incidents in banking and medical settings, which showed that the type of feedback provided by the listeners will illuminate their pretense. The speakers who realize that their comments have been largely ignored will naturally be angry and frustrated. In this study, the customers' (speakers) perception of the poor quality of customer service will undermine their trust in future communication encounters with these service providers (listeners) because they will be wondering whether the latter is truly listening to their concerns.
Redirecting the discussion away from speaker: Ineffective listeners who refer speakers' remarks to their own experiences are quick to interrupt the speakers in order to present their stories. How...