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3 Ways to Not Listen

People with ADHD do not always listen attentively. This can lead to problems at work, at home, in social situations – well, pretty much in any setting that requires any type of communication.

Now, we all know that there are many ways of listening to someone. You can listen deeply and really try to understand what they’re saying. You can listen impatiently. You can listen politely. You can listen with curiosity.

What’s less commonly known is that there are also many ways of not listening to someone.

For example, one of my favorite ways of not listening to someone it to ask a question and then not listen to the answer. This could be asking someone’s name, asking some question about their lives, or asking for some more detailed type of information. In any case, it ends with not listening to the answer.

Another way of not listening is to listen to the first part of what someone is saying and then zone out because you think you know where they’re going. They start a sentence, and you immediately think you know what they’re about to say, so your mind moves on to something else. Then they finish the sentence in a way that’s totally different from what you expected – but you weren’t paying attention, so you end up thinking they said something other than what they actually said.

These are both ways of not listening to other people. But it’s also possible to not listen to yourself.

One way this happens is that as you talk, you become increasingly focused on things other than what you’re saying. You gradually stop listening to your own words until you end up in the middle of a sentence with no clue where your contribution to the conversation is going.

You can also not listen to yourself by simply failing to remember what you’ve already said. This leads to repeating things you’ve recently said – how are you supposed to know you said them if you weren’t listening?

As far as what to do about these symptoms and how to compensate for the many nuanced ways of not listening people with ADHD experience, that’s a tougher question. Medication can help. Being aware of these tendencies might help although being able to identify a problem isn’t the same as being able to fix it.

Most of all, though, try to cut yourself a little slack. Being frustrated by your slips of attention when listening to others is a normal part of having ADHD. Basically, I would tell you that if you’re having these problems you’re not alone, but you’re probably not even listening.

Image: Flickr/César Astudillo

3 Ways to Not Listen

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). 3 Ways to Not Listen. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Apr 2018
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