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7 Ways You Are Not Listening

Updated: Mar 27, 2020


You say you understand.

  • Just understand and listen, then speak from empathy

  • Understand their experience, not just their words or the story itself

  • One person’s experience of something might be different than yours

You say you have an answer to my problem before I finish telling you my problem.

  • Or even after you finish saying the problem

  • If you ALREADY have an answer to my problem, then you weren’t listening to me, you were thinking about a solution

  • Problem solving is done with someone, not for them.

  • Answers can come when they’re asked for or maybe after listening and truly understanding the problem

  • Major dividing line for parents and kids

You cut me off before I have finished speaking

  • More interest in what you have to say

  • Sympathetic arousal, lack of patience

You finish my sentences for me.

  • You might think this is conveying a message of understanding, but it’s just talking over me

  • If you think you know what I’m going to say, you aren’t listening to MY words, you are listening to your own thoughts about my words

  • As we mentioned before, this is sympathetic arousal and lack of patience

You are dying to tell me something.

  • Then you are caught up in your own thoughts and state

  • What you have to say is more important

  • Again, sympathetic arousal

You tell me about your experiences, making mine seem unimportant.

  • Another technique that might seem like “understanding” but it’s actually more like comparing

  • You can empathize without having experienced it yourself (regardless of whether you have a similar experience or not)

  • Shifts the focus away from my needs

  • Can be read as a cue of danger: (its a potential rupture that has a story that follows about the self or other person)

  • “Maybe they don’t want to hear what I have to say…”

  • “Maybe I’m boring…”

  • We can commiserate about similar experiences as a method of connecting/relating later, when I’m back in my own Safe & Social state

  • This was a theme with the Bad Therapy Stories.

You refuse my thanks, saying you really haven’t done anything

  • To accept my gratitude is to HEAR me, to be connected, to feel understood

  • To refuse it is to negate my feelings of gratitude.

  • It’s a rupture. It’s a misattunement.


  1. Notice when you are not listening

  2. Accept gratitude

Harry Poliak, Big Leap Coaching -

Parents by Choice presentation is available to watch here -

Intro/Outro music & Transition Sounds by Benjo Beats -

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Stuck Not Broken: Book 1 is now available!


Learn the Polyvagal Theory clearly and simply. Understand yourself without shame, blame, or judgment.

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