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Listening problems include six types of obstacles associated with effective listening practices: Shift Response, Competitive Interrupting, Glazing Over, Pseudolistening, Ambushing, and Content only response (Rothwell 188).

Shift response[]

Shift response occurs when one competes for attention in a conversation by changing the subject in order to favor oneself (Rothwell 189). The opposite of this occurrence is support response, which is constructive to appropriate listening (Rothwell 189). Both genders use shift response in conversation, but men utilize shift response more often than women. The overuse of this practice is an obstacle to competent listening because it leads to conversational narcissism, which marks an inefficiency in the ability to share interest in the others’ topics in conversations because of an excess of shift response and a deficiency of support response (Rothwell 189).


One type of shift response is interrupting. Interrupting occurs when one person abruptly speaks and the other ceases to speak (Rothwell 190). This phenomenon can be both competitive and noncompetitive (Rothwell 190). Competitive interrupting is a listening problem that arises when the interruption is aggressive and for the purpose of dominating the conversation (Rothwell 190). Unlike noncompetitive, competitive interrupting is me-oriented. When both parties are exercising competitive interrupting, the result is a battle for conversational control (Rothwell 190).

Glazing over[]

Another type of listening problem is glazing over. Glazing over occurs when the listener’s attention wanders, dozes off or daydreaming begins (Rothwell 191).


Pseudolistening, a similar barrier in the way of effective listening, happens when someone pretends to listen during a conversation while attempting to disguise inattention to the message (Rothwell 191). Typical responses in this fashion include “Mm-Hmm”, “Really?”, and “Uh huh” (Rothwell 191). During this time of inattention, the pseudolister is unfocused; therefore, it can be very frustrating for the speaker because it is a way the listener turns away a connecting bid (Rothwell 191).


Ambushing is an example of negative listening in which the listener ignores the strength of the message, instead looking for weaknesses in order to attack what the speaker says (Rothwell 193, 194). Although the listener is attentive, the problems stem from the fact that responses are rebuttals and refutations of the speaker’s message (Rothwell 194).

Content-only response[]

The last type of listening problem, content-only response, occurs when one focuses on the content of the message, but ignores the emotional side. This type of response does not recognize feelings and comprehends only the literal meaning of messages (Rothwell 194).


  • Rothwell, J. Dan. In the Company of Others. McGraw-Hill. New York. 2004.

See also[]

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