Handling Inattention as a Barrier to Effective Communication

Handling Inattention as a Barrier to Effective Communication

If you care about the human relationships in your life, effective communication is the key.  Human strife can chip away at both the mind and body and create a state of human misery. Human harmony on the other hand heals and gives us a sense of well-being as well as transporting us to a place of bliss and joy. There are several factors that impede the easy transmission of our messages to others. We sometimes refer to these as human filters in our communication.Relationship researchers Markman, Stanley and Blumberg point out that “Inattention” is one of these filters and can serve as a powerful barrier to effective communication. Someone sends a message to another person and the recipient of the message does not sufficiently focus on, or hear the content of the exchange to accurately grasp its meaning. 

Several factors are responsible for inattention in human dialogue, creating barriers to effective communication: 

Hearing and speech problems are one reason for this dilemma. If someone cannot hear the message, they cannot fully comprehend the information being sent to them. This can create stress and even depression if not dealt with appropriately. 

Noise in the environment is another cause of inattention impeding effective communication. A loud working space such as a noisy classroom or an area with a lot of noisy AV equipment, can serve to impede the message you are trying to send because again, it cannot be properly heard.

Human fatigue is another factor causing inattention. We don’t absorb information well when we are tired. It would not be wise to introduce an important business matter after the company Christmas party for example. 

Some people have attentional difficulties as a part of their personality makeup and these can taint effective communication. Frequently these persons cannot take information in sufficiently to grasp the entirety of the message being sent to them. Usually they need to develop strategies to manage their inability to focus. If necessary special treatments are available to assist them. 

Drugs and alcohol also alter one’s ability to clearly comprehend communication. So what can you do to maintain effective communication when attention is limited?

  • Make sure you have the other person’s undivided attention before presenting your message to them. If you have doubts about their having heard you, you may ask them to repeat the message back to you.
  • Some people receive messages better when they are physically active. In this case you may wish to present your salient points while going with them for a walk rather than sitting quietly in chairs. Physical movement will enhance their ability to take information in.
  • Choose your timing wisely. Neither you nor the person you are speaking to will do well with information if one or both of you are pooped.
  • Choose a location free from noisy or visual distractions when sharing something important, so the message has the best chance of being heard by the person for whom it is intended. Ask, “Is now a good time or is later better?” This gives time and space for a quality set up.
  • Be aware that the filter of inattention can severely cripple effective communication. We all have this filter from time to time. Be ready to adjust your response so the message you wish to send has the best chance of being perceived correctly.

Inattention is a human filter that can create a huge barrier to effective communication. It is important to take responsibility for your own filters and name them for the other person, so that person can appreciate your present state and make appropriate adjustments, thereby reducing frustration and marginalized dialogue.

When dealing with others be proactive. If you know that inattention filters are operating for them or for you, take appropriate action to remedy the situation. Effective communication is the key.

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