People Who Hear But Don't Listen

Some people hear but don't listen. These are the kinds of people who only take into account their own points of view, and show no interest in understanding others. In this article we take a look at their motivations -or lack of them- as well as the outcomes of their attitude.
People Who Hear But Don't Listen
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 14 April, 2022

Some people hear but don’t listen. Because hearing isn’t the same as listening. To listen, you need to also be receptive, but not only to the message itself. In fact, in addition, you must decipher gestures, emotions, and all the other information that might be contained in a message.

However, sometimes, it’s difficult to maintain an effective and satisfactory conversation with everyone in your day-to-day routine.

There are plenty of people who put up barriers. In fact, it seems that they don’t want to pay attention or understand others. On the other hand, some people may seem close and accessible but you soon realize that they’re not genuinely interested.

Not knowing how to listen, or how to practice active listening generates feelings of dissatisfaction. At the relational level, the consequences can be both problematic and damaging. Furthermore, in work settings, good communication is key to achieving goals and creating the kind of climate where people feel satisfied, thus encouraging them to give their best.

Therefore, we ask the question, why is it so difficult for us to listen to each other the way we deserve?

“Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”

-Richard Branson-

A stressed man in a meeting.

Why do people hear yet not listen?

Nothing erodes your emotions so much as not feeling listened to when you need it or when you’re simply trying to communicate with someone. Indeed, it isn’t only teenagers or uncaring bosses who don’t listen. As a matter of fact, in reality, this phenomenon occurs frequently among figures who are close to us.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that incommunicability, as well as not listening, is the source of all violence. In a way, this is actually the beginning of many of our problems. After all, those who don’t listen tend to be condemned to either indifference or disagreement. This often ends up generating insurmountable distances.

Let’s take a look at what lies behind these people who hear, but don’t listen.

Confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance

Some people only listen to what they want to hear. For example, they only listen when you say something that confirms what they already know, believe, or take for granted. However, anything that they don’t like or that doesn’t accord with their own beliefs will be ignored.

Cognitive dissonance is also an extremely common phenomenon in communication failure. It often happens in your relationships. For instance, when you’re angry with someone, it doesn’t matter whether they’re right in what they’re telling you, your mind rejects this dissonant data and tries to be true to its own feelings. Hence, you feel that, as you’re angry with them, nothing they say can possibly be right.

Narcissists, people who only listen to themselves

Narcissists don’t hear because they only listen to themselves. Indeed, the narcissistic personality lies behind many of your frustrating situations when it comes to communicating. These people never pay attention to other people’s perspectives. They only see their own truth. Furthermore, any conversation that doesn’t have them at the center is of no interest to them.

A couple arguing.
 Pent up anger

Pent-up anger tends to stop people from listening. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons you might fail in your communication processes could be due to hidden anger. Sometimes, you don’t even need to be angry with the person in front of you. For example, a bad day at work can mean you stop practicing active listening with those around you. This is a reality that you must bear in mind.

Wanting to take control of the conversation

You’ve probably come across people who just won’t stop talking. This is extremely common, as well as frustrating. These are the kinds of people who hear you, who are standing right in front of you, but who don’t listen to you. That’s because they’re thinking about what they’re going to say next. In fact, their only desire is to take control of the conversation. What you say is of no interest at all to them.

What can you do with those who don’t listen?

Whether you like it or not, there’ll always be people who hear yet don’t listen. You can meet them anywhere. However, it’s really difficult being faced with someone who’s incapable of being empathetic and sensitive. That’s because good communication is the main nutrient of coexistence. Without it, nothing flows or acts to your own benefit.

Therefore, with those who don’t make the slightest effort to genuinely and actively listen to you, you must let them know. Make it clear to them that you deserve to be understood. If they don’t change, it’s best to let them go for the benefit of your own well-being and health. Because emotional deafness in communication leaves behind serious consequences. You must protect yourself from it.

Try and work every day to maintain adequate and satisfactory communication in all of your social settings. Endeavor to be the best example. Promote empathic dialogue, and set boundaries for those who’ve no wish to listen to you.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.