01 May 2019

Seven subtle (and not so subtle) signs that say: “I’m not interested in what you’re saying”.

We’ve all been there. We’ve been on the receiving end and we’ve (most likely) been an offender at one time or another. We’re talking about those conversations which feel disconnected because one person isn’t tuned in. Here are some telltale signs that the other person isn’t really paying attention:

  1. They appear “zoned out”. They’re smiling too brightly and for too long; their eye contact is too fixed; their heads are too still. They’re trying to show you they’re listening, but they’re faking it. A real conversation should be relaxed – not tense and forced.
  2. They respond in auto-pilot mode. I got a reality check from my 8 year-old son the other day. He was telling me a story and yes, I admit it, I was pretending to listen (my mind was thinking about a 101 other things I had to do). He stopped suddenly mid-flow:  “Mummy, you’re not listening, you’re just saying That’s lovely darling but you don’t really know what I’ve been saying.” Ouch! I better listen next time!
  3. They’re distracted. A glance at their phone or their watch. A look out the window. Or even worse, looking past you to see if there’s someone else they’d rather be talking to!
  4. They fidget. Are they tapping their fingers or feet, playing with their hair or frequently shifting in their seat? Being in constant motion is a sign that they’re not focussed on what you’re saying.
  5. They don’t mirror your body language. If you’re in sync with someone, your body movements are also likely to be in sync. If the other person is not mirroring your body positioning or gestures, they’re probably not connecting with you.
  6. Their responses are random. Have you ever said something and the other person changes the subject? It could be they’re uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. More than likely, they haven’t been paying attention to a word you’ve been saying!
  7. They look like you’re boring them! If your conversation partner is sitting there dead-eyed, staring blankly, chances are they’re bored. So they’re probably not hearing a word you’re saying. Hmmm…this is a tricky one. Perhaps you need to be more interesting!! Or perhaps you need to find someone who is interested in you!

It all comes down to having a good level of emotional intelligence – of which self-awareness and authenticity are key components. When it comes to successful workplace (and personal) relations, authentic listening is key. But what if the person doing the talking is boring the pants off you? Connected conversations involve good listening skills, but they involve self-awareness on both sides. So if you feel like you’ve been taking up all the airspace, then STFU and ask a few questions!