When They Don’t Listen

Due to some irritating happenings lately, I’ve been wondering why it is that too often people don’t listen when we’re trying to tell them something important. They only hear what they want to hear (and often only see what they expect to see). Now and then we’re all guilty of that but some folks have it honed to a fine art due to family background and/or training in a specific area such as sales.

I won’t even get into the subject of doctors who don’t listen to us. Let’s just say they get huffy with patients who do their own research.

There is actually little worse than an in-your-face salesman who wonders why he/she isn’t being successful, unless it’s their equally dense manager who’s never learned that people don’t like to be, and won’t be, “sold” on your annoying proposition. Offended people back so far away you won’t get a second chance. Someone who has previously worked in sales told me they don’t listen because they’re too busy waiting for the chance to shoot down any objections. But in today’s world people do their own research instead of listening to a spiel and don’t need to call a salesperson until the last minute.

I think for non-salespeople our not hearing the first firm No might be due to the way we’ve trained ourselves. When we expect a specific answer from someone and don’t get it, the mind goes almost blank and their actual answer doesn’t register. She couldn’t have said No. She’s not allowed to say No. So she must have said Yes. And we ask the same question again and again, just to be sure. We actually expect a different answer from what we’re not even sure we got the first time.

Little Control Freaks

Quite often we wear a person down and do get what we asked for. (Be careful what you ask for! It’s not always what you expected it to be.) If we don’t succeed, we get mad and go ask someone else or get someone else to ask the individual, until we get what we wanted in the first place. It usually worked when we were kids and we learned to be little control freaks, wearing out a lot of shoes during our tantrums. We quickly learned that No doesn’t really mean No…in some families. In ours I would have been swatted across the room every time till I was old enough to leave home.

Little control freaks tend to grow up to be big control freaks who do their best to ruin the lives of their employees, their coworkers, other people at their place of worship, or their own families. When they want something, they keep demanding until they get it, often approaching the person from different angles, or making an end run around them. They become tap-dancing prima donnas whose wishes are to be obeyed. But if an employee needs to make an end run around you, there are likely major problems with your style and/or the company itself.

Annoying people expect to see prospects all around them but what they actually see is avoidance behavior: people ducking down a different hallway at work or in a church building, avoiding meetings that should have been an email anyway, crossing the street, ignoring their phone calls, and staying away from them every chance they get. Discretion on the potential victims’ part is often of far more value than yet another confrontation but if it comes to a knock-down-drag-out fight, victims will take that on, too.

No Doesn’t Require an Explanation

What won’t change is that No doesn’t require an explanation, and it’s discourteous to wait around for one or to probe for more information. That’s because:

  • The reason is usually no one else’s business.
  • When people do provide an explanation, it’s immediately interpreted as an excuse.
  • Medical issues are often pooh-poohed when they’re not exotic or dramatic.
  • Potential victims are weary of the whole drama queen scenario and wish you would just go away.

When I say No, it means No. And like a lot of other people, if you persist in asking, I’m going to get angry, and you’ll be left wondering where that came from. Quieter people can swallow years of aggravation before they finally explode.

We need to listen to what people are saying the first time they say it and respect the answer.

Disclaimer: My blog posts are statements of opinion only. I am not in the business of giving financial, legal, medical or any other type of advice. See Terms of Use and Disclaimer for further disclaimers.

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