“You’re Not Listening” — The most overused and worthless phrase ever

People commonly say “they don’t listen”, or “he/she doesn’t listen”, or “you don’t listen to me”, and from my experience, it generally completely misses the actual issue at hand. People who continually say it, I generally feel like don’t have much power, because they decide to think everything is as simple as saying someone doesn’t listen to you. They have a complete lack of vocabulary to describe the situation in further detail, which hides specific actions that could be taken to improve it.

First off, if you are to say that about someone.

Are you even good at getting someones attention in the first place?

Are you good at articulating exactly what you’re trying to convey to someone?

Are you good at making sure the other actually, and truthfully, understood your message, and made you feel sure, by repeating back in their own words what you said, or some other method that made you felt understood?

Or are you just over simplifying everything, and saying “you didn’t listen”, because people don’t take you seriously based on their past experiences with you, or you don’t know how to actually be seen, heard, command attention, get your point across and make sure they understood what you communicated? I argue, it’s generally the later, and if it isn’t true, it’s better to believe it, because at least it gives you power to realize, you can improve and be communicate better. Because people ain’t listening to you…

Then there is another part to the misunderstanding, when people will say “they didn’t listen to me”, because the the other person, did not take some specific action, or possibly failed.

I’ve had people say I don’t listen at some points. And there have been occasionally were I really wasn’t paying attention at all. And maybe in fact, I did not hear them, but then there other times people will say it, and in fact listened to them and heard them, but I just don’t agree with them, and didn’t acknowledge that I would do XYZ.

You can’t really say, someone else didn’t listen to you, just because they didn’t do what you asked them to.

For example, someone says “I really wish you would get that tooth fixed in your mouth.” (dumb example I know). But unless the other person agrees to get that done, the other person can’t just say they didn’t listen to me and their tooth is still messed up. Don’t get confused between listening and hearing someone, from someone acutally agreeing to do something.

Did they even agree with you in the first place, that they’d do what you requested?

Maybe they listened to you, and heard you, but just flat out disagree with you and don’t do it. When they take the action you disagree with, you lose power by saying they didn’t listen. In my opinion, they did listen, but they just decide to do it different. What would be more accurate is “They listened to me, but decided to do it differently.” At least then, it gives you power because you have separated someone listening, hearing you, understanding you, from actually doing something. They shouldn’t be confused, one word listening, shouldn’t imply that much meaning.

So when someone else says to you, “You’re not listening”, dive deeper into it.

Is it true, that you’re actually not paying attention to them whatsoever. Can’t stop thinking about things, and focus on what they’re communicating for 30–60 seconds. Maybe so.

Maybe you do hear them, do you make the feel understood, is that why they say that?

Maybe you heard them, made them feel understood, and agreed to do something and you diddn’t. Then maybe they consider that not listening, to me that’s you just being out of integrity, and not following through with your word.

Maybe you heard them, made them feel understood, and just disagreed and decided to go on your own bought. To me, you heard them, listened and choose to go another path.

People who constantly use the words “he/she doesn’t listen”, are lacking in vocabulary to more accurately describe the situation, so they could do something differently than just blaming others for “not listening”.

Be careful in the future when using those, because it may not be true. There may be more words to describe what is in fact happening. Consider in the future using:

  • I couldn’t get their attention — I don’t feel like you’re paying attention to me, why?
  • I couldn’t get them to listen to what I said (just on hearing you…) — Are you hearing what I saying?
  • I couldn’t get them to understand — What do you understand from what I said? Say or write it back to me
  • I couldn’t get them to agree — Will you do XYZ?
  • I couldn’t get them to follow through — You didn’t do XYZ, why not?

And change it to I, so you, have the power to make the change. I couldn’t get them to listen, is different than they don’t listen to me, spoken so commonly by people who have little power to affect change in their lives. Because it leaves them out of control and blames their communication skills on the another.

It’s unfortunate that even the dictionary’s example misleads us. The definition of to listen, a verb is “give one’s attention to a sound.”.

Then it gives a bad example:

“take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request.” Obviously, I disagree with this definition. And all the sudden it turns listening into way to many meanings. Take notice of. Act on what someone says. Respond, or a request.

no·tice — attention; observation. (makes sense)

act — take action; do something. (take action listening maybe, but not doing what someone says)

re·spond — say something in reply. (different than giving attention to a sound)

The better our vocabulary for describing any situation, may it be emotional well being, a challenge, or problem, the more clarify you will have in understanding it, and commencing action on the right way to resolve it.

Knowing you’re mad (broad) vs knowing your jealous (a more specific, detailed feeling of mad), gives you a better understanding on how to deal with it. Being jealous has a specific set of things you can do to feel better. Being mad, has some too, but it’s too broad and you’re less likely to resolve your issue.

The same applies to vocabulary related to listening, hearing, seeing, understanding, responding, responding, etc etc.