How You Respond … Is a Key Part of the Listening Process


5 Ineffective Listening Responses

Listening is hard. You’re distracted. You’re not interested. You’re evaluating, making assumptions and judgments. Even good listeners can have a few bad listening habits. But sometimes, even when you’ve listened well, it’s your response that’s ineffective. And your response is a key part of the listening process.

Here are examples of poor responses:

  1. listening at workJudgmental
  • Often label, blame or criticize
  • Make people feel stupid, inferior or inadequate


  • I can’t believe you would do ….
  • You’re wrong; that’s not it.
  • When are you ever going to get it?


2. Patronizing

  • May appear supportive
  • Actually placating and distracting


  • It couldn’t be that awful.
  • This isn’t such a big deal ….
  • Things will work out—just let it go.


3. Interpretive

  • Interprets the speaker’s motives and behavior seemingly better than himself or herself


  • What’s really bothering you ….
  • Anyone can see he did ….
  • As we all are aware ….


listening at work4. Interrogating

  • Pointed, rapid-fire questions to determine blame


  • What could you have been thinking?
  • Did you consider leaving the area?
  • Why in the world did you do that?


5. Empathetic

  • Sympathizing
  • Can cut off any further action


  • Forget about it; everything is fine ….
  • Don’t worry ….
  • I’m sure he’ll understand if you just explain ….


Everyone can (and should) learn to listen well. But, remember how you respond is integral to the listening process. Be careful not to be judgmental, patronizing, interpretive, interrogative or empathetic. Don’t advise. Don’t evaluate. Don’t reassure. Your goal as a listener is to understand and to let the other person know that you do. (For more details on what you SHOULD say, check out this article.)

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