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Listening; 2nd – Remove Obstacles

Going from Duh to Do – The Listening Edition told you you’ll need to

2nd – Remove Obstacles


I mentioned the biggest obstacle (at least in my sales experience) is judgment about; finding a business opportunity, moving forward in the sales process toward winning the deal, etc.
Basically… the obstacle to actually listening is focusing on (perhaps, hope is a better word) hearing the answer that makes you feel good.
The thing about judgment is it’s typically automatic and based on your previous experience. Both of which make it difficult to drop or even mentally move past.

  • Automatic: unless you’re actively thinking about dropping judgment, you may miss that you’ve had one (or some) pop into your head and stop you from listening effectively.
  • Previous Experience: the great news, many times experience makes us successful. The bad news is that previous experience can stop listening in its tracks; because something is said that you’ve heard multiple times before, assumptions are made – this conversation is just like those times.

I wish there were an easy answer on how to discard judgment. It’s simple – be mindful of your own judgments. Yet mindfulness takes a LOT of mental energy and effort, so it’s never easy. 


I’ll share that I have mental, environmental, and technological distractions that stop me from listening. How about you?

  • Mental: judgment is one kind of mental distraction. For me another is my favorite song coming on; instead of listening, I am singing along in my head. Plus, if I’m overwhelmed I am thinking of all the things that I need to be doing (outside of the current conversation). You probably have different mental distractions that impact your listening capacity.
  • Environmental: think about how what is around you might be listening distractions. Movement, what’s happening outside your office, noises, etc. Even lighting and the temperature can impact your listening ability.
  • Technology: every notification there is on your phone or computer – visual and sound – stops your brain, at least momentarily, from listening. Distracting your attention away from the conversation to something else.

What distractions, for you, are like SQUIRREL for Dug, the dog from the movie UP? Today figure out ways to remove them.


As I was reading about cultural differences, with “someone from a cultural background different from your own, you might need to adjust some verbal and nonverbal behaviors.” in Five Tips for Nonjudgmental Listening I have to admit, I started to think about the language between sellers and buyers.
Really, I’m serious!

  • Sales: has a language that when you pay attention, you may find seeps into your conversations with other people.  Not only using that language – but as you’re listening you think they mean one thing… when in fact, as they’re not in sales, they may mean something completely different.
  • Purchasing: also has its own internal language, that salespeople need to learn. From amortization to value analysis be sure to check out this Glossary from the American Purchasing Society. PLUS when you hear a word that doesn’t make sense, ask a question about it… and of course listen to the answer, adding to your purchasing vocabulary.
  • Organizational: in addition to sales and purchasing speaking different languages at times, each organization you’re working with may have acronyms and words they use that you don’t understand.

    I remember the first time someone said, “Well I have to put in for AFE before we move forward.”

    I was young, stumped, and afraid to ask… later I wished I had as AFE = Authorization for Expenditure in their organization. It certainly would have helped me, in that conversation and opportunity (obviously I got over my fear eventually and asked).
  • Industry / Specialty: add in industry or specialty language aerospace talks about things differently than education. Information technology has a vocabulary separate from manufacturing.

Now do you believe me? Language, vocabulary, and acronyms we don’t understand are other obstacles to listening effectively.
All of that – plus any cross-border or regional language and cultural differences you may have with your prospects and customers.


When I googled “obstacles to effective listening” it came up with About 15,400,000 results (0.48 seconds) so there is obviously a lot more to removing the barriers to being a good listener than I’ve talked about here.
If my observations don’t ring true for you – take the time to go find out what does resonate so you can remove your personal obstacles to being a better listener.
All my best,

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