Have you ever been talking to a friend or family member about something that is serious or important to you and they immediately change the subject, interrupt, or start talking about themselves? These are a few habits of a bad listener. Bad listening can leave the people you love or care about feeling unimportant or disregarded. I struggled and fought against habits of bad listening. I didn’t even realize I was a bad listener until I was impacted by one myself. Listening to other people and whatever is plaguing their minds is one of my passions. I want anyone who confides in me to feel heard and understood. However, there are a few habits I had to kick to become a better support for others. There are many people who have bad listening habits but think they are excellent listeners when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone can be a bad listener. I’ve met some of the most loving, kind-hearted people who still participated in bad listening habits; who truly cared but didn’t realize that they weren’t listening. Listed below are a few habits that exhibit bad listening. For those who have been impacted by a bad listener, I’ve listed some options for you below as well.
- Interrupting/ finishing sentences
- Changing the subject
- Waiting impatiently for their chance to speak
- Getting stuck in their head and thoughts
- “Faking” attention
- Tolerating or making distractions
Bad listening can be due to a couple of things like lack of respect for the speaker, ignorance on how to be socially polite, being consumed in own thoughts, or hearing the superficial words of the speaker but not internalizing the true meaning of what is being said. Sometimes the subject matter is too deep or serious and the person changes the subject to something more pleasant. Sometimes the person you are speaking to is self-absorbed in whatever they’re going through or whatever is on their mind; we all have that one friend who always likes to talk about themselves. However, from most encounters I’ve had, bad listening habits are due to a lack of interest or empathy.
No matter the reason, I learned not to confide in people who have bad listening habits. I distance myself and interact with those people in activities that don’t involve much conversation like: go to a museum, a concert, or a movie. If you find someone is not listening to you or you can’t confide in them during difficult times, I would keep their relationship as superficial as their listening skills. They don’t have to be your best friend, they can just be a party friend or hang out buddy. If it’s someone close to you like a sibling, spouse, or someone important that you want a close relationship with, I would encourage direct communication if you want a stronger, deeper, and happier relationship.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE, PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE AT 1-800-273-8255 FOR SUPPORT OR IMMEDIATELY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN/ NEAREST HOSPITAL