7 Reasons We Choose Not to Listen

A friend of mine knows a lot about people who don’t listen—sometimes, his 4-year-old daughter is one of them. She loves one particular skirt, and one day, she wanted to wear it for a second day in a row, despite being told not to since it was very dirty. My friend told his toddler to put on a pair of white pants instead. She decided it would be a better idea to ruin the pants with a red permanent marker and dig her favorite skirt out of the laundry basket. My friend was irritated that his child chose not to listen.

Truthfully, we do the same thing. Sometimes, we’re all people who don’t listen. We choose not to listen during moments of discomfort, conflict, or uncertainty. We think it’s easier, but it usually just makes relationships more tense and unstable. With kids, failing to listen is part of growing up and learning right from wrong. With adults, it’s usually a matter of us deciding to be stubborn. Here are 7 reasons we choose not to listen.

1. We don’t want to hear opposing ideas.

Sometimes, the reason we become people who don’t listen is simply because we just don’t want to. Why? Arrogance? Defensiveness? Fear? All these things can be true. We can easily get wrapped up in ourselves and forget that others gain wisdom through life, too. Other people have experiences and perspectives that can be valuable to us.

2. We are afraid of change.

Sometimes, it’s time to do something different—moving houses, switching careers, changing strategies. If we assume change will be bad, that could leave us digging our heels in instead of listening. But that won’t necessarily make a difference and could even close you off to something truly special. If you never give change a chance, you may never grow.

If you never give change a chance, you may never grow.

3. We like being “right.”

Because the desire to be right is so strong, the urge to stop listening to others is real. It’s easier than admitting we might be wrong. You don’t magically become correct by shutting your ears. Sometimes, you’re wrong.

4. We are selfish.

There’s little time left to think about others when we spend disproportionate amounts of time focused on ourselves. This attitude breeds selfishness. It leads to talking more and listening less, which leaves us discounting the feelings of others. This is not only disrespectful but can also be hurtful. Agree or not, each person’s perspective has as much merit as your own. Maybe we’re people who don’t listen because we’re being selfish.

5. We think we’re smarter than others.

Everyone is an expert in something, but nobody is an expert at everything. When we start to flex our brains and show off the things we do know, we often end up closing our minds to what others know. Fight that urge. There are different kinds of smart. Listen to gain new perspective.

6. We are older than the speaker.

Typically, with age comes wisdom. But there are many times when someone younger than you will offer great insight into a topic or view it from an angle that an older person wouldn’t consider. Analyze rather than discount younger points of view. Youth offers energy, enthusiasm, and drive.

7. We are too busy talking to listen.

Hearing can be passive, but listening is always active. It requires time. We have to be intentional in order to listen. When we feel the urge to speak more than listen, it means we’re too busy to stop and pay attention to someone else. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry.” This is great advice.

Sound off: In what situation in your past did you choose not to listen but looking back wish you had?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think listening is so important for our relationships?”