Why We Don't Listen

Listening is one of those vital skills that we often overlook. It plays an important role not only in the work environment, but at home as well. In these environments we need to actually hear and understand what people are saying, with our full attention. Even if you aren't good at listening, it can always be improved if you work at it, so in this post I would like to go over some of the reason that we struggle to listen.

  1. We already know the answers
    We often assume we know what people are going to say, which I touched upon in the conversation destroyers post which then causes us to zone out. Or, we may think that we have all the answers already figured out and therefore don't have time for you. Take the time and let them ask and listen and don't always assume that you already know.

  2. Impatience
    Our society has brought us up such that we are constantly receiving results immediately and this has transitioned into our socail interactions as well. Relationships aren't like this and take time to nurture and grow and we need to spend time doing this which requires patience.

  3. Unable to listen
    Now this may sound strange, but many people aren't able to listen and when I say listen I mean listening with their full attention. As a society, we find it easier to talk and speak which causes our listening skills to deteriorate. As a leader, this is often the case as you may be accustomed to telling people what to do and never take the time to listen. Like I have said before, a trait of a great leader is his ability to listen and ask the right questions.

  4. Struggle with emotional intimacy
    When you start to listen to someone you will often find that there is a bond that starts to form. As the bond gets stronger, you tend to pour out more about yourself to them. Some people may be afraid of this emotional connection but it is important in trying to build relationships.

  5. Unaware of the impacts of not listening
    When you actually listen to someone you can make them feel significant and even boost their self-esteem, if they lack that. As a result, they will also tend to share more as the feedback loop from their previous experience was a positive one. Another technique that you can do to show that you are listening is to ask two questions deep. By doing this you go beyond just scratching the surface and go deeper. You often see families with children that say "It's pointless talking to my parents, cause they don't listen to me" and as a parent it should be your job to maintain the communication and always listen.

  6. We are task orientated problem solvers
    I find this to be especially true in the IT industry where part of our nature is to solve problems and come up with solutions. As such, when people talk we may tend to think that what they are looking for is a solution, but in actual fact they just want to have a chat and be heard. Even in my own personal life, my wife sometimes says to me that she just wants me to listen to her and not try to fix the problem, so I am also guilty of this.

  7. No one listens to us
    This is a kind of vicious cycle because you don't listen to other people because no one listens to you. Our behaviours are influenced by our role models, so if you had parents or team leads that never listened to you, then you will usually exhibit the same features. Another possible reason is due to revenge, so to spite someone that never listens to you, you never listen to them. I tend to see this spitefulness a lot in some of the organizations and at the end of the day, both parties lose out.

  8. Pretending to listen
    I have been guilty of this as well, be it selective listening where I only listen to certain people or topics. They have been times where I also have just listened to the high level details but upon review, I missed the finer details.

  9. Struggling to listen
    This could mean that you are struggling with hearing the truth, so you don't actively listen or it could also be that the speaker is making it very difficult for you to follow and understand. As a speaker, it is also important that you adapt your speaking style to the profile of the person you are communicating with.

Well, that covers this topic and I hope that you found some useful information to help become a better listener. I myself know I have a few things that I can improve on and if you have any comments or suggestions, just let me know in the section below.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa