Listening to Reply – 7 Indicators Someone Isn’t Truly Engaged

Written By:

‘Hello. Are you listening to me, you bar steward?’

I was recently on a call with one of our colonial cousins. She began the meeting by telling me how busy she was. ‘So busy. So very busy. Banged out. Never seen it so bad’. At this point, imagine Micky Flannagan describing this. It’s a little like when Micky told us about buying a birthday card for his wife, and that it was apparently very, very, very, very… important’. My meeting collaborator was very busy. There were 7 other ways she proved that she was not listening:

7 Ways to Tell Someone Is Not Listening

Blue number seven on pink background
Watch out for these signs


  1. Busy. <Quietly thinking: ‘Yep, I think you may have mentioned it’>.
  2. Her self-orientation goes up a further gear telling me all about what she does, in detail.
  3. Surprisingly, another gear (I didn’t know there was another one) with ‘People always ask me, what I do’. (Do they? Do they!? Or was it just your Mum who was as confused as I am by what you do and was brave enough to ask?).
  4. After several days (It felt like the minutes slipped by slowly). She finally paused and asked, ‘Does that make sense?’. (I’d slipped into a coma. No, it didn’t). I began replying and then it happened – Nodding, looking at her other screen, making um’s and ah’s, but started typing an email.
  5. As we progressed a pattern emerged. She spoke, and I listened. I spoke, and she did emails (Maybe it says more about me than her?!). It seems that other people speaking is a good time to get some emails done – I must try it. Not.
  6. She asked no questions.
  7. The final parting shot was the kicker; ‘Darren, that has been super useful, great to talk with you, and I am so glad we met’. (Was it really? No, it wasn’t. It was a waste of time for us both and we won’t go anywhere in my lifetime).

What’s Your Score?

Greyscale closeup of an ear with earring
How well do you listen?


None of us have ever listened this badly, I am sure. Yet, how would others score us when asked, ‘How well did he listen?’ Typically, a 7 is most people’s answer.

Being heard is a fundamental need of every human. We just want to be heard. In fact, we almost don’t mind whether the decision goes our way or not, as long as we are heard. The difference between a 7 and an 8 is simple, yet practise we must.

In your next Teams call watch two other people conversing. You can score how well the other person is listening by the gap between the other person speaking and then their reply. If the gap is literally the person finished the last syllable and the other person bounced off of it with their reply, it’s a 7. If the gap was a moment, then it is an 8.

In essence, are we just waiting for the other person to stop so that we can speak? If so, we are listening to reply. If we are truly listening, then our reply can only be formed having heard what they said. The difference in replying is only a moment but it is a moment that makes the all difference.

Engage with us on LinkedIn.

Related Articles:

Active Listening Articles and ContentCommunication and InfluencingMeetings Articles and Content

Share this Article:

Communication Skills

There’s More!

Improve your Personal Development with Resources Designed for You

Woman pointing down with purple down arrows
Pack of MBM Coaching card on yellow background

Get your Pack of Coaching Cards from Amazon

Sign up to receive regular articles on learning and development.

You may also like: