Opinion: Are You a Bad Listener?

Sira Mas

In this article, we will talk about bad listeners and some annoying habits they have in common.

If you’ve ever dealt with someone who interrupts you as soon as you start a sentence, you probably know how frustrating it can be.

They say most people are bad listeners, and that people with good listening skills are quite rare.

The reality is listening skills exist along a continuum, and not as something you either have or you don’t, meaning that some people are excellent listeners, some are terrible, while some others stand somewhere in the middle.

To help you identify bad listeners, I’ve put together some of the habits these people tend to have in common.

1. Bad listeners get distracted very easily

Now you might think: we can all get distracted during a conversation, that’s not necessarily a synonym of being a bad listener.

And I agree with that.

However, imagine talking to someone who instead of looking at you, continuously looks somewhere else, lets anything and anyone distract them, gets up then leaves you there talking alone because they saw something that caught their attention.

Well, that’s what I’m talking about.

While a good listener gives you their undivided attention when you’re talking to them, a bad listener gets distracted very easily.

2. Bad listeners redirect conversations to themselves all the time

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find what I’m going to describe quite annoying.

Do you know those people who at first seem interested in you and ask you how you are, but after your first three words they redirect the conversation to themselves?

Here’s what a simple interaction with them looks like:

The bad listener: “Hey! Long time no see, how are you doing? How’s work?”

You: “Hi! It’s good to see you! I’m great, just got promoted and…”

And they cut you off right there:

“Oh nice, I got promoted too! In fact, it’s the second time I got a promotion at this company already. So, last week I celebrated with my family and friends and we had a blast!…”

[Keeps talking for an hour].

A good listener lets you complete your sentence, listens to you, and probably asks you some follow-up questions as well.

The bad listener, instead, doesn’t have the common sense to do all these things, so they just interrupt you to talk about themselves.

3. They change topic when you’re talking about something important to you

Picture this.

You’ve just received one of the the best news in your life — if not the best. You feel enthusiastic.

So, since in that moment you’re with a friend and you want to share that wonderful news with someone, you tell them.

“You won’t believe this! They just told me that […]. And I’m so happy!”

And they give you an answer like:

“Oh that’s great. You deserve it. By the way, what are we going to eat? I’m so hungry. Mmm this sushi looks delicious, I’m definitely going to have this.”

See what just happened?

They did the bare minimum: they acknowledged what you said, they said what they had to say, and then changed topic, completely. And it wasn’t a simple interruption, they didn’t get back to your topic, to what truly mattered to you in that moment.

This is another common habit I’ve noticed many bad listeners have in common, and sometimes it’s also a subtle sign someone is jealous of what you have.

The best thing you can do to respond to this behavior is acknowledging whatever they are saying and then add:

“Cool, so, as I was saying,…” and finish whatever you were saying.

And the reason you should do this is not to force them to talk about your favorite topic or about yourself.

You do it because it’s the most elegant way to make them notice their rudeness.

4. The most common and annoying one: they always interrupt you

One of the worst, most annoying habits lousy listeners have is they don’t let you finish your sentence. They assume they know what you’re about to say and they interrupt you.

While a good listener lets you finish your sentence and makes sure they are understanding your point, with a poor listener you have this feeling you have to speak as quickly as you can — or they’ll cut you off to give you their opinion.

Can you imagine arguing with someone like that? No, you don’t even want to imagine that, I know.

And you know what usually happens when a bad listener interrupts you to talk?

Most of the time their answer won’t make sense to you, because they didn’t understand your point, and they didn’t understand your point because they didn’t let you finish what you were saying.

The best and most elegant reaction I’ve seen to this behavior is this (and if you’ve seen it already I’m pretty sure you loved it too):

4 Habits of Bad Listeners: Recap

To give you a quick recap, here are four habits of poor listeners:

  • They get distracted very easily,
  • Redirect conversations to themselves all the time,
  • Change topic when you’re talking about something important to you,
  • Always interrupt you.

Article originally published in The Truly Charming

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