Did You Think I Was Listening?


I recently saw a young man wearing a t-shirt that said, “It’s funny how you think I’m listening.”

There are times I believe we all deserve such a t-shirt. Not because it is funny but because of how often we poorly communicate. We are all guilty of not listening at times. We daydream or think about our problems or the upcoming weekend. We pretend to listen while checking Facebook and texting.

Am I listening?

I believe one of the reasons that video telephones have yet to become mainstream is that we don’t want others to see how little we are paying attention while on the phone. We are checking email, filing papers, waving at visitors, and even reading the news.

There are also times we are not listening and we are not the guilty party. We are being bored to death. The person speaking is the guilty party, abusing us with bad boring, irrelevant babble and expecting attention they have not earned.

Captive audiences are the most likely to be abused. At business events and in school, it is common for even the extremely bored people to at least appear interested. Many of us have learned to hide that we are ignoring the speaker. It is a social behavior that we pretend interest. After all, it would be rude to obviously ignore any speaker or teacher, right?

Over time, we’ve learned to tune out others and we’ve learned how to make ourselves easily ignored. I suppose this all goes hand-in-hand.

The lesson of the t-shirt is two-fold. First, listening is not just hearing. It is paying attention and considering ideas and information. And second, being “listenable” is not just about speaking. It is about being relative and valuable to others.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at glennsphillips@nerdtoenglish.com.

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About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.