The Importance of the Effective Listening

Despite their relevance to the effectiveness of interpersonal communication and the role that they play in reaching the communicative goal, well-developed listening skills are relatively rare in common individuals. Without specific knowledge pertaining to the most prevalent ineffective listening styles, it is rather easy to commit costly errors. In this essay, I describe and analyze one situation where multitasking and selective listening created a problem.

The situation occurred two years ago when I was working at a small stationery shop. I was extremely busy with clients, but my supervisor suddenly gave me a call to entrust me with a new task. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time to listen to her message closely since I could not get distracted from the client. I understood that the manager wanted me to decorate the shop windows and had defined the task as “urgent,” and I stopped paying attention to her because everything was clear. After that, I found and used our old seasonal decorations, which affected my ability to serve customers. However, the supervisor was not happy when she finally arrived and brought new decorations. It turned out that she had actually told me to decorate the shop for Halloween only after her arrival and that it was not that urgent.

To start with, the harmful influence of multitasking on comprehension is among the tendencies that explain what went wrong in the aforementioned case. In business communication, multitasking refers to “being engaged in other activity” when listening to someone (Perry & Miller, 2018, p. 35). Interestingly, based on research, attempts to work on additional cognitively demanding tasks (reading, memorizing information, etc.) while listening are known to be associated with poor performance in both activities (Frost & Bybee, 2018). As an inexperienced employee, I was passionate about demonstrating my ability to multitask. It created the situation where I kept switching between two unrelated conversations and could not pay enough attention to the shop owner’s utterance and full instructions that she wanted to provide. Therefore, the habit of multitasking made me fail as a listener.

Next, another issue that affected my professional performance is selective listening that stemmed from the willingness to engage in multiple tasks. This barrier to comprehension occurs when listeners suppose that “they have heard the main points… and then stop listening” (Perry & Miller, 2018, p. 52). After the sentences in which the manager mentioned the need to decorate the shop and that it had to be completed as soon as possible, I stopped listening to her very closely. Based on my experiences with that person, I was sure that she was going to talk about her personal issues and family life after delivering the main message. Instead of that, she suddenly remembered that we did not have new decorations and asked me to wait for her, but I missed that information. Thus, the selective listening trap caused me to over-rely on my preliminary and inaccurate conclusions.

Additionally, an understanding of effective listening skills would have made a great difference and prevented the shop owner’s discontent. Knowing about the need to prepare oneself for listening and remove all distractions mentioned by Perry and Miller (2018), I would have approached the situation with two parallel conversations differently. Instead of continuing talking to the supervisor, I would have asked her to wait for some time or send me a short message to explain her request. Moreover, I would have been honest with her about a long queue of customers and the situation’s influence on my readiness to perceive new information.

Finally, the tendency to engage in different demanding tasks simultaneously or stop listening to interlocutors after gaining a shallow understanding of their messages can be extremely harmful to the results of communication. In the analyzed case, the absence of relevant knowledge made me commit two important mistakes. To prevent similar situations, it is critical to prepare for listening to others and eliminate significant distracting factors.


Frost, J., & Bybee, B. (2018). Multitasking while listening. In D.L. Worthington & G.D. Bodie (Eds.), The sourcebook of listening research: Methodology and measures (pp. 458-464). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Perry, L., & Miller, T. (2018). Business communication: Skills and techniques. ED-Tech Press.