How to Deal With People Who Don’t Listen

Many of us have experienced the frustration of talking to someone who won’t listen. We’ve all been “that person” too – distracted, preoccupied, or dismissive when someone is trying to communicate with us. While occasional lapses in listening skills are normal, some people consistently demonstrate poor listening that can strain relationships.

Good listening is a critical skill for healthy relationships, effective communication, and mutual understanding. When people don’t listen, we can feel disrespected, unvalued, and upset. Common reasons people don’t listen include distraction, disinterest, self-absorption, opinionatedness, defensiveness, and more. The reasons matter less than the impact – relationships suffer when listeners are chronically tuning out.

This article explores strategies for dealing with poor listeners, whether in our personal or professional lives. We’ll cover setting boundaries, improving your own listening, and deciding when to walk away from toxic non-listeners. With insight, patience, and some simple skills, we can handle the people who won’t listen in our lives.

Why Don’t Some People Listen?

There are many reasons why some people don’t listen well in conversations. Here are some of the most common:

Preoccupied with their own thoughts – Some poor listeners are distracted by their own thoughts and inner dialogue during conversations. They may be thinking about what they want to say next, instead of focusing on what the other person is saying. This causes them to miss key points that are said.

Believe they already know everything – People who think they know it all tend to be very poor listeners. They assume they’ve already heard whatever you have to say or that they have better knowledge on the topic. So they tune out the conversation.

Lack of focus or short attention span – Some chronic poor listeners simply have difficulty concentrating for long. They may start daydreaming or get distracted after just a few minutes. This causes them to lose track of the discussion.

Not interested in the topic – If someone isn’t intrigued by the conversation topic, they are unlikely to listen with care and attention. Their disinterest causes their minds to wander.

Feel like they have better advice to give – People who constantly want to give their own advice don’t make good listeners. They are eager to share their wisdom and don’t focus on what the other person is saying.

How Does It Feel When Someone Won’t Listen?

It can be incredibly frustrating and invalidating when someone won’t listen to you. You likely feel unvalued and unimportant when a person talks over you or ignores what you have to say. Poor listening hurts relationships and communication because it causes misunderstandings and feelings of disconnection.

When someone is always interrupting you or looking at their phone instead of paying attention, it sends the message that they don’t actually care about what you have to say. This can make you feel insignificant, unseen, and unappreciated. It’s easy to take poor listening personally, even though there are often other factors at play besides just you.

Being repeatedly unheard leads to feelings of resentment and hurt in all types of relationships. It strains communication and emotional intimacy. Over time, constantly feeling ignored or overlooked can cause people to shut down and stop sharing openly. Poor listening damages trust and respect between friends, partners, family members, and coworkers.

It’s valid to feel upset when you pour your heart out to someone and they barely acknowledge it. Don’t dismiss your hurt feelings when people tune you out or forget what you said. Being heard is a fundamental human need, and we all deserve attentive listeners in our lives. Address any pain from feeling unheard so you can move forward with better communication strategies.

Ways People Demonstrate Poor Listening

Some common ways that poor listeners demonstrate their lack of listening include:

  • Interrupting frequently: People who interrupt while someone else is talking prevent the speaker from fully expressing their thoughts. Interrupting can show a lack of patience, interest, and respect. Interruptions can be verbal such as talking over the speaker or non-verbal like looking at a phone. Frequent interruptions make conversations frustrating.

  • Appearing distracted: When listeners seem distracted, disinterested, or disengaged it signals to the speaker that they aren’t listening. Behaviors like looking around the room, checking a phone, fidgeting, doodling, or daydreaming suggest the listener’s mind is elsewhere. This is disrespectful and discourages open communication.

  • Turning the conversation back to themselves: Self-centered listeners relate everything back to their own interests and priorities. They may interrupt to share a story about themselves rather than responding to what the speaker said. Monopolizing the conversation and steering it off-topic leaves the speaker feeling unheard.

  • Responding impulsively without thinking: Some poor listeners react immediately without taking time to process what was said. They often interject the first thought that pops into their head rather than thoughtfully considering the speaker’s words. Quick, careless responses can lack understanding and miss the speaker’s intended meaning.

Tips for Dealing with Poor Listeners

When someone is repeatedly interrupting or ignoring you, there are a few strategies you can try to improve the interaction.

  • Point out their interrupting politely. You can say something like, “I noticed you jumped in a few times as I was speaking. I’m really trying to explain this thoughtfully. Do you mind letting me finish before responding?” Hopefully, they will become aware of their actions.

  • Ask if now is a good time to talk. You might say, “You seem pretty distracted. Is this a good time for us to chat? Or could we set aside some time when you can fully listen?” This prompts them to recognize your need.

  • Suggest a time when they can fully listen. Propose meetings when there are fewer distractions. Say something like: “Would it work better if we discussed this topic tomorrow when you have fewer meetings? I want to make sure you can really focus on what I’m saying.”

  • Refuse to compete for their attention. If they are constantly interrupting or looking at their phone, stop talking until you have their full attention again. You don’t have to talk over them or repeat yourself numerous times. Wait patiently for an opening to continue your thought. They may realize how their behavior is obstructing the dialogue.

How to Tell Someone You Feel Unheard

If there’s someone in your life who frequently interrupts you or doesn’t seem to be listening, it’s important to communicate your feelings to them directly. Here are some tips:

Use “I” statements to explain your experience. Say something like “I feel frustrated when you start talking before I’ve finished my thought. I would like a chance to fully express myself.” Avoid accusatory “you” statements.

Give specific examples of when the poor listening happened. You could say “Yesterday when we were talking about the party, I felt like you cut me off before I could give my opinion on the location. I would have liked to explain why I thought we should have it at the beach.”

Focus the conversation on listening skills, not the content of what you were saying. Don’t get bogged down in rehashing the topics you felt unheard on. Stick to how the way they listen makes you feel.

Suggest solutions like taking turns to talk without interruption. For example, “I think it would help if we took turns sharing our views without cutting each other off. That way we both have a chance to fully explain our thoughts before responding.”

Making the conversation about how their listening habits affect you, not criticizing their opinions, helps keep it productive. If said kindly, this dialogue can improve your communication.

Setting Boundaries with Chronic Poor Listeners

If someone consistently demonstrates poor listening skills, it’s reasonable to set some boundaries around the relationship to protect your own well-being. Here are some potential strategies:

  • Limit time together one-on-one. Spending less solo time can minimize opportunities for poor listening. Group settings may also curb the behavior.

  • Refuse to engage when being interrupted. If they start talking over you, stop talking to yourself. Wait for a pause and say, “I wasn’t finished yet. Can I please finish my thought?” Then continue.

  • Be direct about needing good listening skills from them. Say something like, “I want our relationship to be strong. For me to feel heard and valued, I need you to work on your listening skills when we talk. Can you do that?”

  • Consider relationship counseling. A neutral third party could help address the issue. The counselor can teach tactics to improve listening and have both people practice them in a mediated setting.

  • Point out each time they interrupt or don’t listen. Don’t criticize, but say something simple like, “Remember, listening is important to me.”

  • If no progress, spend less time together overall. It’s draining to continually feel unheard. Politely decline one-on-one invitations for a period of time.

  • In extreme cases, evaluate if the relationship is worth continuing. Chronic poor listeners who refuse to change can damage your self-esteem.

The goal is to be direct but compassionate. With effort, the other person may be able to improve their listening skills. But if not, protecting your own wellbeing is reasonable.

Improving Your Own Listening Skills

To improve your own listening skills when interacting with poor listeners, there are some strategies you can try:

  • Minimize distractions when someone is talking to you. Don’t look at your phone or let your mind wander. Give the speaker your full attention. Maintain eye contact and focus entirely on what they are saying. This shows you care about what they have to say.

  • Ask clarifying questions if you don’t fully understand something. Say something like “What do you mean when you say…?” or “Could you give me an example of…?”. This shows you are making an effort to comprehend them.

  • Paraphrase what you heard to demonstrate you were paying attention. Summarize the key points back to the speaker in your own words. This verifies you were actually listening and retains the information better.

  • Avoid interrupting or steering the conversation in another direction. Don’t start talking about yourself or change the subject. Let the person finish expressing their thoughts before contributing your perspective. Be patient and don’t interrupt.

When to Move On From a Poor Listener

At a certain point, you may need to re-evaluate a relationship with a chronically poor listener, especially if the lack of listening has become toxic. Signs it’s time to move on include:

  • When it negatively affects your self-esteem. If you constantly feel invalidated, unimportant, or invisible around this person, it will erode your confidence and sense of self-worth over time. Their dismissiveness sends the message that your thoughts and feelings don’t matter.

  • When you dread interacting with them. If you find yourself avoiding them or feeling anxious at the thought of talking with them because you know you won’t be heard, it may be time to limit contact. Preserving your mental health is important.

  • When you feel constantly frustrated. Trying to connect with someone who ignores you or talks over you is exhausting. If every conversation leaves you feeling dismissed, angry, and pent-up, it’s draining your emotional energy.

  • When it prevents intimacy in the relationship. Relationships require mutual understanding. If one person stonewalls, shuts down, or refuses to listen, it creates an emotional distance. The lack of empathy makes it hard to maintain closeness.

Sometimes, consistently being ignored by someone you care about can take a real toll. While you can’t force someone to listen, you can control your own actions. If the relationship is no longer healthy, it may be time to step away and redirect your energy towards people who truly hear you.


Listening is a critical skill for building strong relationships and communicating effectively. However, many people struggle with poor listening habits for a variety of reasons. In this article, we explored some of the main reasons people fail to listen, like being distracted, feeling superior, or lacking empathy. We also discussed strategies for dealing with people who won’t listen, like setting boundaries and improving your own listening skills first.

While it can be frustrating to deal with someone who won’t listen, it’s important to remain patient and keep trying to connect. With practice, compassion, and determination, people can overcome ingrained patterns and become better listeners. Even people who seem stubborn at first can gradually improve by working on their awareness, focus, and emotional intelligence. There’s always hope for change if both parties stay committed to understanding each other.

The ability to truly listen and make someone feel heard is one of the most profound gifts we can offer another human being. When people feel listened to, they feel valued and respected. By making listening skills a priority in our lives and relationships, we can build stronger connections and greater understanding between people. Though it takes effort, improving listening and communication will deepen our bonds with others, making our lives richer.