Posted by tac_admin, November 14, 2012

Barriers to Listening: Must-Have Verbal Communication Skills for BAs

Perfect communication is when the receiver accurately interprets the sender’s intended message. But while on the job, there are several factors that can influence or interrupt this message. Those factors are called Barriers to Listening.

Check out what each of these 5 barriers entails and how you can amend your listening behavior  to prevent faulty communication while eliciting requirements:

Filters. Our brains process each new piece of information through filters that have developed since childhood. Typically, we are not aware of the influences that personal filters can have on intended messages. In other words, your subconscious is affecting how your process information.

Take a look at the following list. Any and all of these things can affect how you process new information:

  • Memories
  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Interests
  • Attitudes
  • Past Experiences
  • Strong Feelings
  • Images, Past and Present
  • Expectations
  • Physical Environment
  • Assumptions
  • Prejudices

To improve your listening skills:

  • Recognize your own filters and their effect on your listening.
  • Be aware of the filters of others and aware of the impact on messages.

Lack of Interest. As a rule, lack of interest in the listener is interpreted by the speaker as a lack of interest in them as a person. Listening is committing—decide you will get something of value out of every conversation. Once you determine why you are not interested, you can correct the problem.

Consider these things when determining why you are not interested:

  • Are you feeling ill or tired?
  • Are you distracted by unrelated personal or work problems?
  • Are you hungry?

Preconceived Ideas and Thoughts. These are almost always present when dealing with a familiar topic or person. The tendency is to selectively listen for what you expect to hear. We naturally screen out things that don’t meet our expectations.

If you’re already familiar with the subject, you may not reconfirm specifics that you believe you understand. You also might not probe to find differences between this specific situation and the one in which you are familiar.

However, if you keep an open mind, familiarity can benefit communication by…

  • Helping you formulate intelligent questions.
  • Facilitating better communication because you understand the language of the communicator.

Remember, keeping an open mind is critical to eliciting requirements  that are clear and complete.

Thinking of Responses During the Conversation. An accurate response to a speaker’s message is a response to his or her total communication. A shared or common topic of a discussion may trigger thinking of a response during the conversation. The formulation of this response in your mind causes you to lose the rest of the discussion.

To prevent this…

  • Try to stay open until you hear the entire thought.
  • Paraphrase the message back to the speaker to be sure you heard it all.
  • Take notes to keep your mind on the discussion at hand.

Finishing Statements for Others. Not only do many people consider this practice rude, but finishing statements for others will also diminish their desire to communicate.

Break the habit by…

  • Listening for periods and question marks. Every verbal message contains audible punctuation. Wait for these pauses to compose the appropriate response.
  • Drinking water.
  • Counting to three. Once the speaker has stopped talking, count to three. This will give you a chance to ensure the person is finished speaking and allow you to gather your thoughts and formulate a response.
  • Using gestures, eye contact, nodding of the head to help speaker get to conclusion.

Are your listening skills facilitating project success? Take a look at my laser coaching sessions,  and learn how you can hone the specific skills you need to master as a Business Analyst.


3 responses to “Barriers to Listening: Must-Have Verbal Communication Skills for BAs”

  1. […] identifying, clarifying, and capturing business rules will help prevent ad hoc rules, hidden rules, miscommunication of rules, and keep knowledge from “walking out of the […]

  2. […] BAs are the liaison between the business (SMEs) and the technology team (Developers, system architects, DBAs, etc.) and it is the responsibility of the BA to communicate effectively between the groups. In order to completely document requirements the Business Analyst must ask questions and listen to the answers. […]

  3. […] the business analysis field, communication is key. And with the BA acting as the liaison between the business and IT worlds of an […]

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