11 ways you’re not listening

Has someone ever finished off your sentence or talked over you?

Then there’s that person who always tries to top your story. You have a headache? They get regular migraines. You got burgled?  They came home and their entire house had disappeared.

These habits can be, at best, frustrating and at worst, a source of bristling resentment.

Active listening looks quite different.  It builds connection and trust.  It’s a way of really getting to know what drives a person.

When you listen actively, problem solving is efficient: by holding back, you discover what challenges and solutions are genuinely there, instead of stopping the process short with your own presumptions.

The result is that the speaker will share more, revealing a greater self awareness, essential for so much communication including conflict resolution, feedback or deciding where to go on holiday.

We’re all guilty of bad listening.  All of us. It’s very human. Time is tight and our patience may be even more stretched.  The people who take the hit of our non-listening are often those we live with, possibly even more than our colleagues.

See if you can recognise any of the following bad listening habits in yourself:


11 ways you’re not actively listening

  1. Talking over the other person or finishing their sentence:
    You could be indicating impatience if you rush in.  Finish sentences says “You’re so predictable, I know what you’re going to say next.” This will make someone want to clonk you over the head double time if you do it and it’s wrong, with a single clonk if you do it and you’re correct.  No rewards either way.
  2. Dismissing the other person:
    “That’s doesn’t matter / It’s [what you’re struggling with] isn’t important.
  3. Going completely silent:
    on the phone, this is very disconcerting.  Vocal cues, such as ‘mmm’ and ‘uh-huh’ cue your presence.
  4. Judging them e.g. “You shouldn’t have done that.” or “That was a bit naïve.”
    No-one’s got a time machine yet so telling someone how they should change the past leaves them frustrated.
  5. Being distracted when someone’s talking to you:
    are you looking at your phone or the next person to talk to?
  6.  You respond with “That happened to me”:
    then you bring it back you and suddenly they’re an audience to your story.
  7. Asking irrelevant / unrelated questions:
    you know when you’re actively listening when you follow up with a question that you could only ask because you listened to what this person was saying.
  8. Playing the ‘Trauma Olympics’:
    “That’s nothing.  You should hear what happened to me!
  9. Switching focus:
    “Oh yeah, that happened to me.” (As No. 8 but without the competition, only the assumption that it’s the same experience.)
  10. Giving unwanted advice:
    sometimes we need the guidance, other times we only need to let off steam and get a bit of validation. Ask if someone actually wants your advice.
  11. Phubbing:
    this is when people use their phone while you’re trying to talk to them.  It’s a cross between the word ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’.  Even if it’s not intentional, the other person can feel they’re being snubbed.


Your Action:

  1. Pick out one of the habits above that you may tend to do.
  2. Getting rid of a habit can be extremely hard.  The way to do it, is replace it with another behaviour.  Go here for what to instead.


There are times when we shouldn’t listen.  It’s not always healthy to give some things attention.  When do think those times are?  Share it in the comments below.


Want to become a better communicator in ALL areas of your life?  Whether you’d like to learn as part of a team or individually, I’ve online and in-person courses here. 

Learn at your own pace while you’re on the go or in live interactive and fully customised sessions. 

I also produce white label online courses made for organisations: 100% tailor-made to your company’s needs.



Photo by Yan Krukov on www.pexels.com

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