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Why Do Some People Have a Hard Time Focusing?

Personal problems: The adult listener and learner frequently has an overloaded and overburdened mind. There are problems with bills, spouses, children and work. Often, it is simply difficult to block out all of these distractions. Accordingly, this person drifts in and out of the communication process. The listener's agenda is more relevant than the speaker's message and thus, the listener's mind is elsewhere.

No interest: The listener has no interest in the message being transmitted. The next time you're in church, look around at the congregation during the sermon. How many heads are bobbing? How many passive, blank stares do you see?

Now take a look around the room when your company holds a meeting that all key personnel must attend. Like church, you may see a head or two bobbing. You definitely will detect some blank faces. You also probably will see one or two individuals doodling, whispering, etc.

Whether it is church or the corporate meeting room, the message must grab the listener's interest. Our minds crave stimulation. If the speaker's information doesn't attract our interest, our mind will find some other stimulation -- problems with the kids or the boss, planning our next vacation, purchasing a new car, etc.

Lack of interest is often a two-way problem. Often, the listener lacks interest because the speaker has failed to capture the individual's attention. Note that the minister may frequently begin the sermon with a joke or some humor to "wake everyone up" -- to get their interest.

Selective Listening: Often a person is a critical listener. For example, as a manager in a large corporation, you must attend a meeting conducted by the human resource department regarding the implementation of a new employee benefit package. You go to the meeting with a negative attitude, thinking that the company is going to stick it to you again.

As the meeting begins, your focus is on how this new employee benefit package will affect you. Accordingly, you selectively listen to those parts of the presentation that serve your interests. You receive a fragmented message. You pay little or no attention to those elements of the presentation that do not directly affect you.

Assimilation and understanding refer to the process of classifying and systematically organizing information, which leads to interpretation, retention and comprehension. Like a computer, our minds automatically organize and classify information. This process occurs because of our mental filtration system, which enables information to be separated and organized.