You are Not Listening to Me!

I am busy, I have a thousand and one things to do and now my daughter is in floods of tears because I wasn’t listening to her.  I was listening, she was prattling on about some craft fair event she was doing at school or something.

Now, not only am I busy, but I have also got a pre-teen to console.

In truth I wasn’t really listening to her, I was showing all the symptoms of a man who wasn’t paying any attention at all.  The five sins of the non listener:

  • I was distracted, juggling an internet connection, blackberry and cup of coffee whilst looking for a book.
  • I wasn’t paying her any attention, not looking at her, not acknowledging her presence.
  • I was replying instantly, obviously thinking about what I was going to say, not what she was saying.
  • I had assumed that I knew where the conversation was going, second guessing the outcome.
  • I was finishing her sentences for her in an attempt to speed things up, interrupting her flow of ideas.

What I should have done was stopped, looked at her and listened to what she was saying.  Thought about it then responded.

It would have gone better for all of us.  She would have been happier, I could be getting on with my work and most amazingly of all:

I might have learnt something.

By the way, I always listen to my customers and employees.


Except when I am on the phone (when they can’t see what I am doing).

Good Listening SkillsImage by Beverly & Pack

Read another opinion


  1. Hi James,

    Thing that struck me from your post was that we often fall into the trap of trying to do lots of things at once ‘multitasking’. Question I have is: Does multitasking ever produce better results than focus?


  2. Hi James,

    So often we characterize listening as a ‘skill’ and comment on the quality of other’s listening skill. It is as much a motivation as a skill, don’t you think?

    Children, like customers, intuitively know when others want to hear what they have to say, especially when they are speaking to others whom they care about. If your daughter didn’t care that you really listen, she wouldn’t get upset at the multi-tasking. Customers feel much the same way, especially when they assume the service provider is there to provide service!

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.


  3. We are taught to talk. We are taught to judge and criticise. We are taught to say the right things. We are taught many things. One skill that we are definately taught is to listen and certainly not listen in the sense of making the other (a fellow human being) feel that he/she has been truly listened to. You and I feel listened to when we expereince that our fellow human being “gets us”.

    True listening means listening with a “beginners mind” – that is a mind empty of everything. To put it differently the experience of being “listened to” occurs when you drop, entirely, your frame of reference and enter into my frame of reference. And you cannot do that if you enter into my world with your “baggage”.

    Many executives claim to listen to their customers and their employees yet few do. Why? Because listening is not the same as conducting surveys. Listening it not even listening into customer calls. Nor is it dealing with customer complaints. It is giving up your point of view, your priorities, your concerns, your values. And that is not something that the people at the Top tend to excel at. And the people at the Top include parents like me and you!

    If real listening was easy there would be no demand for counsellors and therapists. And these counsellors and therapist would not be emotionally drained by the end of the day – at least some days. If you dive into the world of counselling you will find that it really takes something to listen – many hundreds of hours of practice.

    Which is why most of us fake it most of the time and don’t even realise we are faking it.

  4. James Lawther says:

    Thanks for the comments

    Maz, your comments put my posts to shame
    Marc, I like the idea of listening as a motivation, rather than a skill, and you are right, we do instinctively know
    Adrian, I am a bloke, as my wife will attest, multi-skilling is never a good idea


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