Why Is Distraction a Barrier in Listening?


Several things can become a barrier to listening and properly communicating with others. One of the biggest barriers to listening is distraction. External and internal distractions can prevent a listener from comprehending and properly understanding what is being said to them.

External Distractions

External distractions can include any distraction that comes from your environment. Whether it is events occurring outside, a cell phone, TV or even other people in the room, these distractions draw your attention away from listening.

Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are distractions that occur from within. The biggest internal distraction can be your own thoughts. Even though you may be staring directly at the speaker and trying to listen, your mind can be racing with various irrelevant thoughts that can prevent you from truly listening.


The biggest effect of distractions can be found in comprehension. If you were distracted while trying to listen to something, you may not remember all of what was said and can miss important details. Another effect can be found in your social connection with the speaker. If you were distracted while listening, you may not feel connected to what was being said and as a result be emotionally disconnected from the speaker.

Overcome Distractions

To effectively overcome distractions, you may have to block out as many distractions as you can. Turn off your cell phone, TV or computer. If things occurring outside easily distract you, close the window. Face the person you are trying to listen to and make eye contact. Show respect to them and let them speak. When listening, try to listen to understand what is being said rather than just listening to the words.