I don’t wanna listen to you…REALLY???

i dont wanna listen to you

By Kenneth Justice

~ Awhile back I got into a lengthy discussion with a young man who sat down at my table; he couldn’t understand why I would want to talk to the various strangers and acquaintances who sit down at my table here at the café;

I simply don’t get it Kenneth, they talk about a million different things and I’ve listened to you interact with some of them and I honestly have no desire to listen to them talk about the s**t they talk about” he said

So what do you want to talk about?” I asked

My life, I want to talk about the things that matter to my own life, I don’t care about the stupid kinds of music these people listen to or what movie they saw last Friday….all I care to talk about is the things that are related to me!” he said

To be honest, while I don’t think this young man represents everyone in Western Culture, I do believe there are quite a few people out there who think the way he does; they are only interested in discussing subjects related to themselves and when the topic isn’t something they like they either tune-out or take-off.

This particular young man is someone I have talked with a few times in the past and by now I’ve gotten a pretty good picture of his life; he doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends. Perhaps I’m wrong but I suspect this young man’s attitude is representational of a lot of people who don’t have very many friends; they are a little bit too focused on themselves;

—-) Some people would rather spend the majority of their days holed up in their living room watching television than getting out of the house and interacting with others

—-) Some people would rather have no friends than have to listen to other people talk about things that they don’t care about very much

—-) Some people are so obsessed with talking about themselves that they turn other people off and repel people from becoming their friends

A few years ago the minister of a local church approached me to ask my opinion as to why they didn’t seem to be experiencing any growth in membership whatsoever;

well pastor, I’ve only visited your church a couple times but it seems like you and your parishioners only seem to talk about the things that you care about; I get the feeling that you are ignoring the needs of the people in your city because none of you are listening to anyone outside of your church” I said

Of course, while I was impressed that he asked me my opinion…two years went by and each time I ran into the pastor it became apparent that no real change ever took place in their church.

For many of us this topic of listening to others seems rather trite; ‘isn’t this something we learned to do as children?’ is what many of us are probably thinking. Yet nonetheless, learning how to connect with others is perhaps one of the big issues facing Western Culture in our day-and-age. Everywhere we turn we hear about people who are lonely, feeling isolated, feeling disconnected, feeling overwhelmed with technology and yet starved for human companionship.

One of the reasons I write about this subject so often is because I was raised in a church culture that was more focused on ‘us preaching at people’ instead of ‘us listening to people’. Because it wasn’t until my late twenties that I was able to finally begin clearing my head of the mindset that I was reared in; I have to live with the regret of many wasted years in which I argued with people, preached at people, and tried to ramrod my opinions down the throats of others……..rarely a day goes by that I don’t recall some sad memory of me being an a**hole when I was younger. It took me a long time to finally see that Jesus was first-and-foremost; a good listener, he took the time to understand where people were coming from.

Learning to listen is a lot like learning to love; it requires a sacrifice on our part to put our own desires behind the needs of others. Is there part of me that would love to sit around and give lectures all day long; sure….I am every bit as human as the next person. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of life; most people don’t need me to give them a lecture…they need me to love them and listen.

One of the biggest barriers in my life when it comes to my being able to love others is the trivial things I tend to whine about. If I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to get distracted by a client who was rude to me, relatives who are annoying…..or any number of silly little things that I tend to fret about. But when it comes down to it; the struggles I am going through seem so trite compared to the real-life issues that others are grappling with;

—) I’m not a single-mother who is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of her life

—) I’m not an alcoholic whose family has abandoned me because of my addiction

—) I’m not a person who is isolated from their friends and family

—) I wasn’t raped by a relative when I was younger and now have to work through the psychological effects of the incident

Thus, when I compare my own problems and needs against the issues that other people are dealing with; my problems seem so small and insignificant. Why the bloody hell do I need to talk when my time could be so much better spent listening to people who need someone to simply be there for them?

Is it really that hard to listen to someone tell you what kind of music they enjoy listening to or what movie they saw last Friday night? Besides, it helps that I’m usually sitting at a café and always have a nice cup of coffee to sip as we’re talking…..which reminds me, I think it’s time for another cup.




Categories: relationships

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84 replies

  1. One of the things learned from Scientology is that people can be interested or they can be interesting…hey look at me. Today’s culture, with all the reality shows and I want to be famous shows all focus on being interesting.

    Real communication is established when there is an interchange of ideas. Too much in one direction and difficulties can arise. I am usually quite good at this but at times I can see point when I do too much communicating about me. If you are observant you can actually see the person start to tune out, that’s when I start getting interested again and then the conversion picks up again.

    When you compare your life to others, you are simply adding perspective…I think anyone in any situation can apply this to life and feel better about their current gripe…because there is always someone who is doing worse than yourself.

    • ” Today’s culture, with all the reality shows and I want to be famous shows all focus on being interesting.”

      yea dude, i see this as well and it is so annoying.

      “Real communication is established when there is an interchange of ideas. Too much in one direction and difficulties can arise”

      spot on. This is exactly one of the elements i was trying to convey in the article; that one-sided talking about ourselves is not really effective communication….we have to listen to others, we have to take in what we heard and respond accordingly….the back and forth ‘interchange of ideas’….right on 🙂

  2. Sounds all too familiar.
    It’s not just religion, either. It’s all across the spectrum. Maybe even everybody stuck in their iTunes and texting out in public, missing all the rest that’s going on in the world around us.
    You nailed it. It doesn’t have to be universal.
    Now, for another cup of coffee … and good morning.

    • ” Maybe even everybody stuck in their iTunes and texting out in public, missing all the rest that’s going on in the world around us.”

      its interesting that you point this out. I’ve been noticing a new trend at the café’s i hang out where people come in to the café by themselves listening to their ipods and don’t make eye contact at all with anyone in the cafe…its as though they want to be out among other people but they don’t want to have to interact with anyone…..

    • Are we just scared of one another?

    • that’s a really interesting question and i doubt im qualified to answer it…but i think a lot of people really are ‘scared’. So much of our culture is abrasive that I’m sure a lot of people have become naturally hesitant to connect with each other.

      a lot of people also have really thin skins….i appreciate the people in my life whom i can argue and disagree with….sometimes heatedly say “to hell with your opinion!” but that we love each other to death and never hold a grudge against each other.

      The culture i come from (evangelical Christian) tends to make men (and women) into weenies; everyone has to walk around on eggshells afraid to say anything or else the pastor or parents will chew your head off and say your ‘in sin for having a bad attitude’ lol!

      in a previous article this past week some pastor dude didn’t like that i used the phrase ‘bloody hell’ in response to him and he got all ‘controlling’ telling me “calm down” lol….as though i have to conform to his way of talking and typing…..

      so that is a really long response but my answer is yes; i think a lot of people are afraid to open up and communicate with each other.

  3. Western culture promotes individuality , an extension of freedom in expression and belief. People are related , yet they have options to do as they please..most of the time age is a factor for segregation. No one complains, each has own space where others will not interfere.
    These bubbles of individuality , seldom get together as bouncing tendency is higher among bubbles..leading to a society where individuals form groups as per their choice and not by their family/clan. State takes care for most of the issues, that is a great help and less responsibilities with parents and children. Resulting in very organized old homes and orphanage. Citizens are taken care of, people in groups talk about similar topic..however, not many are interested in another’s petty issues..because that is personal..yet ..we sometimes want to be heard..that is why the young man was irritated that, you were listening to discussions on music etc. but didn’t give him time to share his little burden..
    I am an observer only..what is the real vibe in a western society /culture only western people can feel.

    • “is why the young man was irritated that, you were listening to discussions on music etc. but didn’t give him time to share his little burden..”

      perhaps….but I should say that I condensed the discussion I had with the young man quite a bit; and truth be told I’d listened to this guy for hours and hours over a few months span….the larger point he was making was related to a discussion he and I had been having over his dismay that he didn’t have a lot of friends. I had suggested that it was because he needed to branch out and listen to others more; to show more interest in what other people had to say….and he believed I was wrong. That is why he said he didn’t give a damn what kind of music people listened to or what movies they saw…that he only wanted to discuss ‘what he wanted to discuss’ and i guess i failed at trying to communicate with him the need to have more of a back-and-forth connection with people….

    • he is surely missing connections..for he never can feel connected..you got patience to listen to him and give him good advice too..but he wants to get a physical, emotional and verbal connection..I think 🙂
      A hug..so tight that heart beats are heard..a smile that touches the eyes..and a word says many things..luv ya!

    • “but he wants to get a physical, emotional and verbal connection..I think”

      spot on…that is exactly what he was wanting but he was unwilling to understand that the type of connection he wanted would involve him reaching out a little bit to others.

    • yep 🙂
      Pull..pull ..pull harder..:))
      You can write,” People with issues ” yes?

    • “You can write,” People with issues ” yes?”


  4. Experts talk from a script they have carefully screened through their Ego. A person that is raw, dealing with a problem similar to mine, invariably talks from the heart. This is what I can hear and gain insight from.

    • Ellen,

      I love that comment….so much of my psychological study in college seemed disconnected from real life; courses were designed around theories and philosophy and at times they felt hollow because they can’t teach you the ‘rawness’ of interacting with someone person-to-person…..

      as much as psychologists want the world to believe that they can ‘teach’ counseling….there’s an invisible dynamic that simply can’t be ‘taught’….

  5. Interesting – loving better, listening better. The two go hand in hand (romantic as well). But there are always exceptions. My wonderful sister, whom I love dearly, is famous for her comment in the early hours of an all-nighter: “But that’s enough about me, what do you think about me?”

  6. Kenneth, I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but I am a listener, too!!! I much prefer to listen. There is nothing better than a cup of coffee, a person who needs to talk and an opportunity for me to encourage/guide them. A perfect few hours, I’d say.

    • Perhaps we shouldn’t ever have coffee together cuz we’d both sit in silence waiting for the other to talk… 😉 j/k lol

      i was very quiet as a kid growing up…and once i found my voice…i had to learn all over again how to listen…I’m still working on it 🙂

    • I think you may be right…twould be a stare down I’m afraid. 😆

      I was painfully shy, until I became a teenager and realized I could make people laugh. I still much prefer to listen which also shows I may not be fully comfortable sharing, but in all honesty, I just prefer building up others. Helping them.

      I suppose I too have realized that my problems aren’t near what others are facing. 😦

    • ” I still much prefer to listen which also shows I may not be fully comfortable sharing”

      i feel you on that….I’m very guarded when it comes to sharing personal details of my life….even though I’ve published hundreds of articles on this website i keep a tight lock down on my privacy…but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you (or i) are ‘uncomfortable’ sharing.. perhaps it means our personality leads to us to be more selective in who we share the personal details of our lives with….

      some people are able to say anything to anyone….i admire them for that…but that kind of personality is simply not me 🙂

    • “…perhaps it means our personality leads to us to be more selective in who we share the personal details of our lives with….”

      Yes. 100%, yes. What I love is that those selected people also understand the importance of their role in my life. I hope that’s the same for you. They see that what I share with them isn’t what anyone else sees. Trust is huge.

    • “Trust is huge”


  7. I’d rather listen than talk, but I still have very few close friends. I think a lot of times it is easy for extroverts to confuse those who have few friends as people who are self-centered and who don’t care about others. It is also too easy to generalize a negative connotation to the “very few friends” aspect of someone’s life. I enjoy having very few friends, I would never want tons of friends in exchange for the few close bonds I have.

    • Jcbb,

      great comments, I’m glad you made this point and distinction…because i should go on the record and say that I’m definitely with the experts on this particular issue as i believe the average person is only able to have a small number of ‘close’ friends…..the people we count as closest to our heart in terms of friendship tend to usually be a very small number….so i agree with your comments

      i think what i was trying to get at in relation to the young man that i had coffee with was that he didn’t even have 1 or 2 ‘close friends’…..he didn’t understand that a part of friendship and communication is a simple back and forth exchanging of ideas; he had a difficult time understanding that he needed to ‘give’ a little in order to ‘get’ when it came to conversation….

    • Ditto! But such is life, everyone wants to talk about themselves, right? Hehe.

    • exactly!

      “But that’s enough about me, what do you think about me?”


    • Haha! Another point I just thought of is that maybe, just maybe, people who listen a lot are provoking those who talk a lot to never realize that they talk too much about themselves. I sometimes feels like the reason others are constantly talking about themselves to me is partly because I listen! So maybe in another aspect, those who listen should speak up more in order to keep those who talk too much from talking too much.

  8. TOTALLY AWESOME post!!!!!! Thank you!!! ( something I need to learn. )

  9. Reblogged this on 2l2phant and commented:

  10. You are sending me blind! The interactions on comments gets tinier and tinier. Love reading all the to and fro’s under the main piece – just cannot see them (it’s an old bloke thing). Don’t need another coffee and a pee – just a big magnifying glass and a legible word 🙂

  11. It really is all in the parenting and in the opportunities that children have or that they are given. I came with terrible parenting. But I also came with superb opportunities as a child and as a young person. These opportunities rounded out and opened my life up. Although I made numerous poor choices as a young adult (really poor choices) most likely resulting from poor parenting, I also changed my life and redirected it in a very positive manner – probably resulting from some of those fine opportunities.

    You are right everyone wants to be loved. Touch, often denied in our culture is a powerful thing. I spent much of my working life in heath care, often employed to provide patients with a treatment to “make them better.” Patients did not always wish to comply with their regimen. More than likely in this situation a therapist would have to chart that the patient was non-compliant. But I found that more often than not if you encountered a non-comliant patient you could place your arm around their shoulder, a hand upon their arm or sit upon their bed offering a real interest in the patient and voila – compliance.

    You write an interesting column. Hey the guy above complaining about progressively smaller printing within a string of comments. He is right on target and yes, it is an old -gal thing too – 67!

  12. Are we selfish or trust is a old version?
    When I listen to others makes me feel important. My door is always open for family and friends that need a listener, someone that cares to look in their eyes and understand, feel the pain without saying a word.

  13. Oh, and P.S. again … thanks for coming by my blog!

  14. The ability to be who you are is a rare gift indeed..please continue…

  15. Kenneth, very much enjoyed this post. Merci!

  16. Very well written! Thank you for sharing this as I completely agree with you on this matter. It’s getting to become very overwhelming to even talk to friends who are constantly trying to sell you some new innovation or trying to hook you onto “making more money the easy and fast way”. It’s very frustrating and sad at the same time. It feels as if our friendship is based on just those materialistic things. Thank you for sharing Kenneth!

    • “It’s very frustrating and sad at the same time. It feels as if our friendship is based on just those materialistic things”

      I totally agree….it can be tough

    • Yes but then I begin to question the true meaning and value of that particular question. Sigh…can’t win them all, right?

  17. Reblogged this on The Wandering Life of a Foreigner and commented:
    Oh so TRUE! Kenneth knows how to hit the nail on the head every time!

  18. I love love loved the line “he doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends.” 🙂 Yep.

    It is easier and easier to chill out about all the petty little annoyances I can get caught up in, the older I get and the more I SEE that, our lives are our own rewards (or punishments, as the case may be). Maybe someday I won’t even get a bitter chuckle out of the observation that folks like “you no interesting” dude have lonesome lives.

    I think my dad was right, he always said that if I was bored it was my own fault, and that anything is interesting if you pay attention to it.

    • “I think my dad was right, he always said that if I was bored it was my own fault, and that anything is interesting if you pay attention to it”

      I agree with him. Its annoying when I think to myself ‘I’m bored’…because if I really take a moment I can totally come up with something to do

    • Yes, and if I find myself stuck listening to somebody whose words are not interesting me, similarly if I take a moment to shift perspective I can usually find a way to be interested in them either by thinking about why they bore me or whether there is some underlying “mirror” to the experience that I could benefit from pondering.

    • Jessica,

      right on. whenever those times occur in my life (and they occur too much probably) I only pray that the people don’t realize that my mind is wandering…..but I’m daily trying to work at giving more of my undivided attention to others.

    • Yes. Love = attention. I hear you. It is the primary challenge of being a human, perhaps. To love as I love myself/give the same attention (not just time but focus and openness) is an aspiration not a reality.

    • Jessica….this is SOOOOO off topic but the first time I came across the picture on your blog I thought for sure you were the actress Michelle Williams…lol your photo looks so much like her…I had to do a double take

    • Aww that is sweet of you. I had to google her, and am both flattered and somewhat ashamed at ky ego’s having led me to select such a flattering photo that you’d say that. 😉

    • Well did you look at her and see your face? Cause I swear you two are doppelgangers 🙂

    • 🙂 I can see a similarity in our cheeky smiles, i will leave it at that

  19. To listen to other means you run the risk of hearing an idea that might not fit your view of things. I believe a lot of people would rather talk about themselves because it’s safer.

    • “I believe a lot of people would rather talk about themselves because it’s safer”

      its interesting that you use the word ‘safe’ and I agree with you. A lot of people have their ‘guards’ up….

  20. Listening skills haven’t always come easy to me. I was painfully shy growing up, but I overcompensated. I would blather to fake it, to push others to re-engage with me until I was more comfortable, or to go away.

    I’ve never understood small talk well. It took me forever to get that “how’s it going” meant “hello”, in casual settings. Only my close friends wanted a more detailed explanation of how I am. So while I can understand where this young man is coming from– I don’t much care for small talk– I think small talk is supposed to be about subjects people can easily find common ground on. The weather, popular music, and the movies may seem like manure, but it’s fertilizer for cultivating conversation.

    Ironically, I quickly learned, too, that getting people to talk to me involved asking about what they were interested in, even talking about themselves. If this young man is stuck on talking about things related to himself, well, I’m not surprised that he might have few friends, because, of course, they want to be able to talk about themselves, too.

    • “I’ve never understood small talk well. It took me forever to get that “how’s it going” meant “hello”, in casual settings. Only my close friends wanted a more detailed explanation of how I am. ”

      Jaklumen, I truly believe that ‘small talk’ is an ‘art’ that should be taught in school. It doesn’t come natural to everybody because it is TOUGH. In fact, ‘small talk’ is in many ways more difficult than having a longer, deeper conversation……..

    • That’s a great point– I’ve read discussions that suggest etiquette should be taught at school, or at least that parents should consider extracurricular schooling for such.

      A friend of mine, in a recent conversation, described communication norms to me as a “minefield”, particularly as people’s individual rules are different. We weren’t talking about small talk per se, but it’s probably an even more apt analogy as such.

    • I used to read miss manners in the newspaper when I was a kid and I think she’d love my idea of teaching the art of conversation in school 🙂

  21. A long time ago, I rented a DVD of Pulp Fiction with bonus outtakes from the film. One that has stayed with me is from Uma Thurman’s “interview” of John Travolta. She asks him, “do you listen, or wait to talk?” He replies, “I have to admit, I wait to talk.” Despite my awareness of it, I still struggle with that tendency myself.

  22. If I’m bored I wait to talk . . . if I am hearing something interesting I listen intently . . .

  23. Nice Post, Love it. Thanks for passing by my blog and the like. Truly appreciate it. Keeping a fixed eyes on yours. God Bless

  24. Reblogged this on Mind games and commented:
    Amazing !

  25. I always enjoy listening to people. Even though some people just want to talk at you. They don’t really want you to respond.

    • “even though some people just want to talk at you. they don’t really want you to respond”

      yup…I run into those people all the time…sometimes they can be very trying on one’s patience

  26. Listening rather than hearing is becoming more and more of a lost art form. It seems to me that the person you were writing about could’ve been between 18 – 25. I have found that the advent of technology, specifically smart phones have made people more self centered and detached. I am inclined to brush of this young man’s actions as “a normal sign of growing up and figuring out who you are” but with the insertion of technology, I am not so sure this is a healthy part of adulthood anymore. People are more disconnected and isolated personally than ever.

    I have fibromyalgia. I long for some one to just truly listen to me, about anything – not just my disease. But, isolation comes as a package deal with this disease. My family rarely hears me, never listens, cuts me off and makes fun of when I mis-say a word quite a bit. I find the concept of just talking to a stranger who will listen in a cafe, a wonderful idea. However I have a hard time picturing it.

    By the way, I have noticed you have been liking more of my posts. I appreciate that you have had the time to spend reading them. I agree with what you say on most of your post but I remember you saying reading and commenting to each commenter was too much for you, so I stopped commenting,,, Just like at home I guess. anyway, thanks for the likes.

    • Yea, I’ve been trying to read more the past couple weeks of as many bloggers as I can…there are simply so many bloggers and I’m trying to slowly comment more but sometimes it takes me forever to think of something to say, my mind is too often all over the place….

      As far as talking to strangers at cafe’s….stay tuned, I have what I think will be exciting news in the coming week 🙂

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