12 signs you're a bad listener — even if you think you aren't

Paramount PicturesJust because you’re making eye contact doesn’t mean you’re truly listening.

  • If you’ve ever dealt with a bad listener, you know how frustrating it can be.
  • Making eye contact and responding to the speaker doesn’t necessarily mean you’re listening to what they have to say.
  • Blinking excessively, making too much eye contact, and interrupting people are all signs you’re not a great listener.

You might think that if you’re nodding along and making eye contact with someone that you’re listening to what they have to say. This, however, might not be the case. Being a good listener takes more than just staring at the person while they speak. In fact, there’s a lot that goes into being a good listener that you might not have thought of.

To help you determine if you’re truly hearing what others have to say, INSIDER gathered a few telltale signs that you’re not as good at listening as you thought.

You’re not asking questions

“Asking questions is perhaps the single most important way to show others we’re both listening and interested,” said Kate Gigax, founder of Development Corps.

And different questions have different weight, she explained. For instance, questions that start with “how” will elicit a longer story about a process. Questions that require a “yes” or “no” answer are closed and are often considered clarifying rather than building the conversation. Questions that start with “what” or “why” tend to invite the speaker to expand the conversation, according to Gigax.

You’re doing most of the talking

Talking talk conversation friends speakStrelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/FlickrIf you’re noticing it’s only you talking to a friend, it might be worth staying quiet and hearing what they have to say.

If you notice that you’re doing most of the talking, you’re inhibiting others from getting a word in, according to Dory Wilson, founder of Your Office Mum. Bad listeners, Wilson explained, tend to make it all about them, and not the speaker.

You don’t paraphrase to show your understanding

According to Wilson, a great way to show that you’re listening is by summarizing key talking points back to the speaker in an effort to verify that you understand what’s being said.

Bad listeners, however, don’t paraphrase to indicate they understand the message; they assume they know, Wilson told INSIDER.

You’re multitasking while in a conversation

With the development of modern technology, most people believe they can multitask. The reality of multitasking, however, is a myth, according to Gigax, and studies have shown that the quality of the tasks being done when you’re multitasking is significantly reduced.

“If you’re scrolling social media on a phone call or finishing a text while responding to the person you’re sitting with, you’re not fully engaged,” Gigax said. “Telltale signs are slower speech or missing portions of the story,” she added.

You don’t reassure the speaker of your interest

Blackish couple argue fight talking ABCABCIf the person is having trouble telling you a story, it might be because you’re not an engaged listener.

People tend to appreciate some prompts when they’re speaking, Gigax told INSIDER. It may be a simple “go on” or “tell me more,” but when we aren’t actively listening, it’s not as much fun for the speaker to speak, she explained.

“People who listen actively by offering prompts like ‘say more about that’ help the person they are listening to feel both interesting and heard. If you’re not doing this, others may not think you’re fully invested,” Gigax said.

You frequently interrupt

Verbal trespassers, as interrupters are otherwise known, do not hear the other person out, Wilson said. These people tend to interrupt, she added, assuming they understand where the conversation is headed and what the speaker is going to say next.

Your feet are turned away from the speaker

Another telltale sign of a bad listener is having your feet turned away from the speaker, according to Steven Keyl, human behaviour expert and author of “The Human Whisperer.”

The feet are the body parts furthest away from the brain and under the least conscious control, he explained. Therefore, the feet point to where the mind wants to go. This sign will appear early on in a conversation if the listener is disengaged.

You’re blinking too much

Friendship talkingEbtikar / ShutterstockYou might not even be aware you are excessively blinking.

Something you may be doing without even realising it is blinking more than normal, according to Keyl.

“Disinterest is shown when the blink rate of the listener increases. This is a subtle form of eye-blocking behaviour to which the blinker is almost always unaware,” Keyl told INSIDER.

You’re over-nodding

“If the listener’s head is nodding so much they look like a human bobble-head, chances are they are just humouring the speaker and aren’t really listening,” Keyl told INSIDER.

Over-nodding rather indicates that the listener is merely trying to maintain the appearance of listening, he added.

You frequently break eye contact

Anytime you spend time scanning the room while someone else is talking, it’s a sign you aren’t listening, Keyl explained.

“The more-subtle version is when the listener frequently breaks eye contact to look over the speaker’s shoulder and then allows their vision to drift back to the center of the conversation,” he told INSIDER.

You make too much eye contact

EyeGetty Images/Mark MainzYes, there is such a thing as too much eye contact.

Conversely, Keyl said, making too much eye contact is also an indicator of a bad listener.

“Sometimes people psychologically check out of a conversation but are conditioned not to hurt someone’s feelings by looking away. So they over-correct and maintain too much eye contact,” Keyl said. “Another good indicator, that often accompanies excessive eye contact is little to no movement otherwise, i.e. no nodding, no gesturing, etc.”

You take large breaths or sighs

If you notice yourself taking deep breaths or sighing often when someone else is speaking, these are indicators that the listener is losing focus on what the speaker is saying.

“Someone who is fully engaged in the conversation tends to maintain a more even breathing rate,” Keyl said.

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