4 Things Bad Listeners Do That Drive Everyone Crazy


Talking to a wall is the most exhausting thing ever. It’s also every bit as silly as it sounds, yet so many of us feel obliged to do it at work. We all know that one co-worker who just never listens, whether it’s because they have the attention span of a hyperactive toddler, or because they simply can’t put themselves (and their egos) aside long enough to actually pay proper attention to what someone else is saying.


Here’s the catch, though: a bad listener often doesn’t realise how bad they are at listening. In their minds, they’re good listeners; it’s not like they never let anyone else have a say—It’s just that whatever other people have to say just holds less weight, objectively speaking.

Considering how critical it is to practice empathy and active listening the workplace today, being a bad listener is like shooting yourself in the foot, without even realising it. Instead of unwittingly sabotaging yourself and your success at work, then, here’s 4 ways to tell if you really are a bad listener.

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1. You only listen with the intent to refute or respond


There’s a huge (yet often overlooked) difference between listening to understand someone’s perspective, and listening to come up with something smart to say to them in return. Stephen Covey, for one, said that “most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”


So many bad listening habits boil down to the wrong intention. You:

  • Interrupt others because your main priority is to retort back, not to listen.
  • Cherry-pick what you take away from the conversation because those are the parts that you mentally fixate on to reply back to, so you don’t remember everything else.
  • Hog the airtime because you get carried away with what you have to say without thinking of what other people might want to voice out



2. You pick up on small details but not the big picture


Similarly, when you only listen selectively to what someone else has to say, you tend to fixate more on the small details of what the other person is talking about instead of the big picture. Understanding a different perspective than yours requires that you step back, silence yourself, channel all your attention to what the other person is saying, and ensure that you don’t mistake the trees for the forest.




3. They steer the discussion away prematurely


Meetings are almost always dominated by the same few vocal people. It may be that they’re just more articulate in general, but it also neglects those in the group who may have valuable input to give, but struggle to get themselves heard or to get themselves across to others.

Bad listeners, in particular, tend to steer the discussion away from such people in favour of the vocal few. Ultimately, they assume that it’s the vocal ones who have the most important things to say or share with others, when it’s actually more a question of differing communication styles.




4. They’re distracted with something else as you speak


Touch your heart right now—can you honestly say that you’ve never surreptitiously checked your phone or glanced at your watch when someone else is trying to talk to you? To live in this day and age is to succumb, at some point, to the constant bombardment of distractions that assails us each and every day without exception.

It’s why so many of us have trouble devoting our fullest attention to active listening; our attention is often fragmented and dispersed all over the place instead of concentrated. However, that’s exactly why learning to be mentally present and focused in the moment is crucial in cultivating your listening skills: the more easily distracted you are, the worse you’ll be at listening to others.



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