Barriers To Effective Listening -
This study examined the most frequently encountered barriers that may affect listen- ing effectiveness among business college students. A factor analysis indicated the presence of six listening barrier factors that concern students. In addition, the barrier 'listen primarily for details or facts" was perceived to be the most frequently en- countered barrier identified by the students. The students' major or age had no bear- ing on the level of frequency given to the barrier factors. However, two out of the six factors were significantly different based on the students' sex. A Factor Analysis of Barriers to Effective Listening Steven Golen Arizona State University INTRODUCTION Tandimportance he of listening cannot be questioned in both academic organizational settings. A number of textbooks devoted ex- clusively to listening as well as entire listening chapters in virtually all business and organizational communication textbooks attest to the importance in an academic environment. On the other hand, a number ofstudieshave been completed that have identified listening orproblems with listening as major concerns in an organizational environment (Brownell, 1987 Downs & Conrad, 1982 Golen, 1980 Hunt & Cusella, 1983 Lewis & Reinsch, 1988 Smeltzer, 1979 Watson & Smeltzer, 1984). Most of the listening studies in both academic and organizational settings have dealt primarily with specific types of concepts or tech- niques for improving listening effectiveness. However, only one of these studies specifically dealt with the determination of multiple barriers to effective listening (Watson & Smeltzer, 1984), and one part of a study identified causes of listening problems, such as lack of feedback about listening skills, lack of knowledge, lack of openness in the organization, and lack of employee motivation to practice effective listening (Hunt & Cusella, 1983). The major objective ofthis study was to determine which barriers are perceived to be the mostfrequently encountered that may aflFect listening effectiveness amongbusiness college students and to expand the Watson and Smeltzer (1984) study. Because ofthe present study's exploratory nature, the number of potential barriers included in the analysis was quite large. Therefore, an ancillary objective was to find out whether the individual barriers could be condensed into relatively few listening 25
26 The Journal of Business Communication 27:l:Winter 1990 barrier dimensions orfactors in order to make thefindings more manage- able for application by communication instructors and trainers. REVIEW OF RESEARCH As mentioned earlier, the Watson and Smeltzer (1984) study was the only study that specifically dealt with multiple barriers to effective listening. However, several studies have dealt with individual listening barriers, such as distractions (Brandt, 1979 Osterhouse & Brock, 1970), emotional reactions (Miller & Baron, 1973), and rebuttal tendencies (Brandt, 1979). In the Watson and Smeltzer (1984) study, 114 business college stu- dents and 106 business practitioners completed an instrument that contained 14 barriers. The students identified disinterest in the topic, internal distraction, and inattentiveness as the most serious barriers. Whereas, the business practitioners identified disinterest in the topic, inattentiveness, and rebuttal tendency as the three top barriers. No attempt was made to group the barriers into dimensions or factors or to determine whether any demographic characteristics, such as age or sex, had any effect on the results. Not only does this current study expand the number of barriers to 25, but it also factor analyzes them ��ind tests for demographic differences among the students. Although no studies have determined factors of barriers to effective listening, several studies have revealed factors or clusters about listen- ing behavior. Barker, Watson, and Kibler (1984), in their study of 127 college students, found that delivery, credibility, speaker's voice, inter- estingness, understandability, and clarity were used to determine speaker effectiveness by listeners. Based on their study of training officers from 106 Fortune 500 com- panies, Htint and Cusella (1983) factor analyzed 17 behaviors, which should be included in a training program, into four factors ��� empathy, receiving skills, instruction criticism, and giving feedback. Brownell (1987) found in her study of 102 managers' listening be- haviors that 5 factors emerged. These factors included sensitivity and considers emotional component of a message understands and recalls information accurately objective and nonjudgmental concentrates and encourages information sharing and provides feedback. In their study of 106 bank and hospital employees, Lewis and Reinsch (1988) grouped 38 statements into 6 clusters as follows: overt responses, nonverbal feedback, level ofinterest, time and attention, verbal interac- tion, and empathy.