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Learning to Focus When Listening

As you've learned, focus refers to your ability to concentrate and pay attention. To improve your focus requires that you first identify your distractions. You may want to establish a distraction checklist, which would include those things that cause you to lose your concentration and stop paying attention.

The purpose of this checklist is to make you aware of various distractions and their impact on your ability to listen effectively. By becoming focused on your distractions prior to a listening situation, you may be better able to stay focused on the speaker's presentation. In other words, consider your potential distractions prior to listening, rather than after you are forced to listen.

1 2 3 4 5
Minimum
Distraction
Moderate
Distraction
Major
Distraction
  1. Internal personal problems that affect concentration.
  2. A prior negative experience with the speaker.
  3. A speaker with a heavy foreign or regional accent.
  4. A noisy environment.
  5. A speaking topic that is of little interest to you.
  6. An extremely pleasant-looking speaker.
  7. An extremely unpleasant-looking speaker.
  8. An uncomfortable room -- too hot, too cold, poor lighting, etc.
  9. A speaker or speech that is poorly organized.
  10. Exhaustion and fatigue.
  11. Bad time -- too early in the morning, too late in the day.
  12. A speaker who causes anxiety or apprehension.
  13. A speech that is contrary to your attitudes and beliefs.
  14. The use of profanity or vulgarity by the speaker.

Needless to say, this list of distractions could be expanded. However, it is useful in identifying the type of situations that you find very distracting.

The following suggestions should help you compensate for most of the major distractions.