Ten steps to being a poor listenerPublished 10:00pm Tuesday, May 14, 2013
By Rex Alphin
1. Avoid eye contact. This might serve to validate their obviously inferior viewpoint and give credence to their claims.
2. Classify the one to whom you are listening. Surely they will fit in some category — liberal, conservative, minority, poor, rich, privileged, lacking intelligence, uninformed, whatever. This grants you the opportunity to place all their comments within distinct boundaries and cease to view the speaker as a unique individual.
3. Do not ask open-ended questions in response. (What do you mean by that? Can you unpack that statement?) You risk being entangled all day. This may also serve to further illuminate what they are actually trying to say and limit your opportunity to share.
4. Always feel you must give advice. That is why they are sharing with you, right? It will further cement your position of superiority.
5. If they have trouble expressing themselves, tune them out. Everybody else does.
6. Be easily sidetracked. It’s actually quite easy. If others are in the room, consider other conversations more engaging and entertaining than yours. Allow your mind to wander. Let your eyes become glazed over and interrupt your speaker by a totally off-subject comment to let them know you have completely lost interest in what they have to say. This technique works wonders.
7. Do not focus on what the other is actually saying but rather on mispronounced words, accents, poor grammar, irritating mannerisms and the like. Be easily distracted by such things.
8. While the other is speaking, quickly determine what you will say in reply. Once determined, this works wonders in shutting down as quickly as possible the remaining listening process. Jump in with your words at first opportunity. Remember, your reputation is at stake.
9. If you are in a position of power — parent, boss, older, etc. — use that position to the fullest as you converse. Keep in mind you have nothing to learn from anyone younger, inferior or subservient to yourself.
10. Keep the focus on yourself. This is actually the foundation for all other poor listening skills. Do not lose the central matter that this is ultimately about you — how you respond, how your response will make you appear, your reputation, your ability to make an impression.
Practice these simple techniques. You will find them to be a natural inclination. Before long you will be the poorest listener in your neighborhood. Good luck.
Rex Alphin of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.