How To Deal With Bad Listeners

Today’s blog post is written in response to a question I received from one of our blog readers.

“Hello Manasi, could you please write a post on tips to maintain personal cool when we encounter people who ask you about something but care less about what you have to say? I am a chatty person. I feel inherent need to respond when people ask me a question. Recently I have been having a hard time dealing with my new roommate who asks me about something but doesn’t care what my answer is. She either starts walking away or starts justifying her way of doing things. It is unsettling for inner peace. Why should I answer if the person asking the questions isn’t even “listening”. Curious to hear what you have to say about this. Thank you!” – DP

Hello DP,

First of all, thank you for asking me my opinion on how to handle a personal situation. I am honored because of your trust in me. So let’s get straight to the point.

The way I see it, this is a perfect example of “change” or “accept” type of issue. Remember, the wisdom from the serenity prayer (my favorite approach to life)?


There are two ways of handling this situation:

  1. You accept that you have no control over how she behaves. Knowing that you master certain skills that will help you cope with such a person without disturbing your inner peace.
  2. You change the situation meaning you get out of such situations.

Option 2 is a sure shot and comparatively easier route. You find a different room or roommate. You basically keep yourself away from such people or you avoid any meaningful conversation with them.

However, just the way you have formatted this question, makes me think, you are aiming for something higher. You don’t just want to resolve this one time conflict but want to develop and master the skills necessary to have a meaningful conversation with people who are not so good at listening.

In short, you are asking me how to deal with bad listeners.

This is definitely a more difficult journey but one worth taking because God knows how many people in this world are terrible at listening and responding! What if that one person is a loved one or a valued colleague? You wouldn’t just want to keep them away, would you?

So in case you choose to go with option 1, here are some points to think about:

1. Choose, don’t go with the flow by default

This sounds harsh but in order for us to maintain inner peace, we have to weigh who comes and stays in our life. People should stay with us not by default, but because we make a choice to have them in our lives, because they matter.

When people matter, maintaining a healthy relationship becomes a goal. There are bound to be incidents when you need to politely and patiently convey to others what you value in communication.

But here’s the bad news. No matter how great a communicator you are, it is frustrating to teach others the best way to communicate with you. It takes a lot of energy, time and patience. There is always a risk that you may hurt the other person in the process. There are also times when you will have to evaluate and adopt your own communication style to match theirs.

Are you willing you invest all this for the person in question?

Whatever you choose, it needs to be a conscious decision because when you make a choice, you will be more willing to stand by it and work for it. This is THE first step in maintaining inner peace – know that you had a choice, and you chose this.

More often than not, you may find it to be a waste of time. As long as this decision does not come from a place of fear or ego or laziness to work towards a relationship, by all means, trust your instinct and analysis. There is no need to waste your energy on people that don’t matter.

But if you decide that you do want them in your life, here’s what you can do.

2. Open a communication channel

Sometimes, people are just not aware of how their lack of listening and responding is perceived. You need to tell them how you feel. And, yes, this is a conflict resolution type of conversation, so all the rules discussed in my earlier post on it, apply.

Be firm but polite and open about how you feel.

Don’t just talk about the problem, offer some solutions – what they can do to improve the situation.

Start with small steps. Over time, you may expect bigger changes from them.

But it all starts with awareness so you ought to give them that. Learn how to do it without hurting or offending them.

3. Know your priority, ignore the rest

“Prioritize” is the word you are going to hear from me a lot this year. It’s been on my mind lately as you probably figured out from my new year’s one-word-intention. It can be applied in this situation as well.

All the times they ask a question but don’t listen to what you have to say, are not equal. Some questions are more important than others. Decide what such conversations are that you must not avoid. E.g. In this particular case, you can say that any time she talks about making changes to the apartment, you must talk. Or any time she talks about rent, you must continue the conversation.

But there are times when questions can be trivial e.g. “How are you doing?” where any real answer should be appreciated but not always expected. So if the person doesn’t listen, just ignore. It does not create a hindrance in your common decision making. Then why waste your energy on it?

4. Create a conducive environment

Such people also have a tendency to discuss important issues on the go. But like all of us, they, too, need focused attention to be able to listen well and respond thoughtfully.

So you think that the question they are initiating is worth having a conversation, create an environment where they can focus on the topic at hand. That way, you remove the excuse of multi-tasking for their lack of listening or responding.

Next time she ask you such a question, try saying this:

“Let’s sit and discuss this. I would love to know how you feel about this, and of course, I want you to understand my opinion as well. I think, it is important for us to know where we both stand, don’t you?”

This will either prompt her to sit with you or say that it is not a good time. In the latter case, decide a better time to talk.

In a rare case, if she does not even listen to what you proposed, just grab her attention and repeat it. This time though, add a short clause at the end,

“Or were you just bringing up the issue, and don’t really want to discuss this at depth right now?”

Then proceed to discuss now or pick a better time.

Either way, you will not feel neglected or answer when nobody is listening. You will feel more in control of the situation, and hence more at peace with whatever the outcome.

5. If all else fails…

If none of this works, know that you have done your best to establish a communication channel with the person. If they don’t or can’t accept it, there isn’t much you can do about it.

In such cases, you adopt your communication style to forgive. If they really matter, you need to just accept that their style is not open to changing right now. Let that be what it is.

Just the fact that you tried your best, and despite the result, you want to still be in their company, says a lot about how much they mean to you. In such cases, you forgive their lack of communication skills, accept that communication gaps will exist, and move on.

With such acceptance, will come a certain type of loving kindness that will allow you to love them despite their flaws. Such love will bring you inner peace you so desire.


I hope these tips help you in building a better relationship with your roommate while maintaining your peace of mind. All the best!


What about you?

How do you handle bad listeners? Do you have any tips for DP? I am she will appreciate your comments, and what you learned from your experience.

Do share! Thank you!

Image credit: kheinz at Pixabay

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  • Thank you so much.

    Agreed, i have a choice to choose what affects my inner peace and whom to compromise for.
    I will defiently work on tip #2 and #4 for people who matter to me.

    • Hi DP! I am glad you find the response valuable, and tips worth exploring. All the best! This will be a great skill to have in your repertoire.

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