You're Not Listening to Me! - 10 Behaviors That Tell People You're Not Listening, Even If You Are

By Lou Hampton

Man's inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively, skillfully, and with understanding to another person. (Carl Rogers, American psychologist)

Effective listening takes skill and understanding. But often even when we are listening, we may do things that cause the speaker to fee we are not.

The result is, of course, that we're not being skillful nor are we connecting to the individual in way in which he or she sees us as listening.

In a moment we'll look at 10 behaviors that the listener often interprets as our not paying attention.

But first I'd like you to stop reading and grab paper and pen.

Now imagine the following situation. You are speaking. This could be in a more formal situation where you are doiing most or all of the talking, such as a speech or presentation. Or it could be informal such as standing around with a group of friends shooting the breeze, or sitting and having a one-to-one discussion.

Regardless of the situation, at the moments you are speaking, what are the things the people who should be listening to you do that bother you. Things that you are consciously aware of that you find irritating. Most likely you don't say anything about them, but they are clearly annoying.

Be specific. Write down what people do or say that sends you the message, "I'm not really listening to you."

Once you have finished your list, go back through and circle the two you find the most annoying.

Now that you have your list, let us compare your answers to the results of a survey I did with over 300 mid-level managers.

The big question to ask yourself as we go through the results is this, "Do I ever do any of these things when I'm the listener? Because if you do, you now know the message you're sending.

The reason I've asked you to circle the top two irritants is that the in my survey, a total of 30 behaviors were listed. Of those, 28 had approximately the same frequency of response.

Two, however, were way above the 28 and of those, number 1 was listed twice as often as number 2.

  1. Interrupting
  2. Lack of eye contact
  3. No response
  4. Holding side conversations (in audience situation)
  5. Ignoring the speaker to answer the phone
  6. Appearing impatient
  7. Completing the speaker's sentences or answering a question before the speaker has finished asking it.
  8. Abruptly changing the subject
  9. Multitasking: texting; reading the mail, newspapers, reports, etc.
  10. Nervous mannerisms: cracking knuckles, twisting hair, tapping fingers, etc.

Eliminate these 10 and you will have a lot of happy listeners.

Lou Hampton is a principal of The Hampton Group, Inc., a Washington, DC firm specializing in media training, speech coaching, message development and leadership communication. He is the author of the audio program, How to Listen Powerfully. For tips and techniques on how to communicate as a leader, go to Lou's blog: < /a>

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