It’s normal to not be interested when someone’s talking. Although you may have a strong desire to ignore them, you may not want them to know.
The following tips will help you and the person who’s talking to both achieve your goals. You’ll be able to ignore them but still give the outward appearance of listening and the talker will believe you’re paying attention.
1. Give the appearance that you’re paying attention
One might think that you have to listen in order to do this, but you actually don’t. It’s quite simple. Provide occasional eye contact, nod and lean forward from time to time. The talker will most likely be so focused on what they’re saying, they won’t notice if your cues are slightly off.
If you’re using an electronic device, be sure to hide it under a table or desk.
2. Pay attention to the tone.
Tone is important for two reasons. First, a statement that goes up at the end indicates the talker is asking a question which might require a response.
Second, tone can be an indication of emotion which will alert you to an appropriate facial expression. Learning to be aware of the tone will eliminate the necessity of listening to the words that are being said.
3. Respond appropriately
When someone asks a question, you can respond one of two ways. Ask them to repeat it (but then you have to listen) or respond with a question or benign comment such as: “Really?” or “No kidding?”, “Wow”, “That’s great” or “That’s awful”.
A pause in the person’s speech is your cue to say “uh huh” or nod your head.
An emotional tone will indicate the need to display an appropriate facial expression.
Again, there’s no need to listen to the actual words.
4. Don’t engage
When you don’t listen you run a risk of being exposed when you offer an opinion or issue judgment. It’s best to stick with questions or one to two syllable responses.
5. Respond to questions with questions
At some point in your non-listening experience, someone is going to ask you for an informed opinion. It’s tough to give one when you don’t listen, so stay clear of this land mine. Instead, display a concerned facial expression and say “What do you think?”.
6. Offer a sincere closing remark
When the meeting is over, end the conversation with a generic statement that implies empathy and infers that you listened. Try something like: “Thank you for talking to me” or “I’m glad we had this talk”.
Following these simple steps will help you develop excellent non-listening skills while garnering your reputation as an excellent listener.