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Bad Listeners: Why It Exists and Tips to Handle a Bad Listener


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Many of us have had one of those “friends” who we believe isn’t listening to us. Everything that is troubling them is treated like a big event, but when you have something to share, their attitude is dismissive. They may talk over you, shift their eyes away, change the subject back to themselves, or give responses that have little to do with the conversation you initiated.


Many of us grow frustrated with people such as this because we see them as inherently selfish. Why are there people who enjoy drawing attention back to themselves and don’t know how to listen to their friends? Here is what the experts say:


Reasons You Don’t Listen

Some of the reasons people don’t listen well include:


1. They Enjoy Talking Too Much

People like to share what they know and curate a certain image for others. A lot of times, people don’t listen well because they are too focused on what their response should be. This stems from low self-esteem because it involves worrying excessively about conveying that perfect image and being exactly what the other person expects you to be.


2. They Are Judging You

If the conversation involves a sensitive topic, the other person may not be listening well because they are internally judging you. For example, if you complain about your boyfriend, the other person may be frustrated that you are dating someone that he/she deems to be “beneath” you. Remember that this is about the non-listener’s faults and not you. If someone is judging you, it usually involves their ego and moral superiority complex. Try not to take it personally.


3. They Think They are Smarter

Often, those who don’t listen well believe they are smarter than the person doing the talking. Perhaps they are used to dominating the conversation and have developed an unhealthy belief system that they have an inherent right to be the primary speaker. This type of relationship will never work because the other person will feel short-changed in the relationship and resentful.


4. They Have ADD or Anxiety Disorder

Many times, someone who isn’t listening isn’t doing it in person. They may be struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD. Their attention span may be short because their mind is incapable of staying focused on one topic for too long. Other people who suffer from anxiety disorders can also struggle to listen because they are focused on an internal dialogue that deals with historical and future events. Staying present and listening at the moment is very difficult for these people-but don’t take it personally.


5. There is Beef Between the Two of You

Have you been a good friend lately? Have the two of you got into a fight? Even if the dust has settled and things seem to be back to normal, there may be some tension remaining between the two of you. The non-listener may be anxious having an in-depth personal conversation with you because they are still nervous about a past confrontation. There’s also a chance that they have some unspoken resentments against you and not listening is their passive-aggressive way of handling it.


How to Handle a Non-Listener

Some tips to help cope with someone who isn’t listening to you include:


  • Speak up – Stop expecting a bad listener to get the hint if you don’t verbalize your frustration. Say courteously that their non-listening hurts your feelings and you feel like they don’t care about you. Remember to use plenty of “I” messages to avoid making them feel defensive.

  • Pick Your Battles – Accept this person for who they are. If you want to maintain your friendship with them, then you have to acknowledge that they just aren’t a very good listener. Pick and choose what to confide in with this person so you can avoid feeling hurt and invisible.

  • Show That You Can Listen – Lead by example and demonstrate to the other person your good listening skills. Use good eye contact, respond to their questions, make it known that you care about what they say.

  • Pick Better Friends – If you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t listen, then it’s time to find new friends who appreciate you and take time to listen to your words. Consider looking for new friends and minimize your friendships with those who don’t respect what you have to say.


Do you struggle with your friendships, anxiety, depression, or ADHD? If so, please contact Straight Talk Clinic at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.


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