Created By: ilniaj on January 20, 2014 Last Edited By: TheGreatConversation on December 21, 2017
Troped

No Listening Skills

Someone who is terrible at listening to other people.

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Taken over by NotShemp
"Are you really listening . . . or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?"
R. Montgomery

This character never listens. Whether it's due to hearing problems, vanity, rudeness, stupidity, inattentiveness, or being in a different place from everyone else, they'll rarely or never get the message that someone else is trying to tell them.

Someone who's vain, a jerk, or off in their own world may actively interrupt other people. Other times they'll need things repeated to them, their responses won't match what they're responding to, or they'll act like they were paying attention . . . only to reveal they have no idea what's going on at a later, crucial moment.

Can be disastrous when paired with someone whose Berserk Button is having to repeat themselves—though of course, if this character has terrible listening skills, they probably won't recognize the pattern.

Husbands and boyfriends in fiction are often portrayed with a pathological inability to listen to their significant others.

An Absent-Minded Professor tends to be this. Might lead to Comically Missing the Point. One of these characters likely Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer. A common reaction is Not Listening to Me, Are You?. Sister trope to Stopped Reading Too Soon, when it's reading rather than listening. If Played for Drama, a subtrope of Poor Communication Kills.


Examples

Comic Books
  • A Running Gag throughout the Tintin series is Professor Calculus never hearing correctly what Captain Haddock has to say. To be fair to the Professor, he is hard of hearing, but his deafness seems to become stronger any time Haddock (and only Haddock) says something (even if he's yelling it aloud).

Literature
  • Christine in Maskerade is both dimwitted and self-centered, to the point where Agnes tells her her father is the Emperor of Klatch and her mother is a small tray of raspberry pastries without any of it registering.
  • In the fourth Narnia book, the kingdom is temporarily left in the hands of a now very elderly Trumpkin the Dwarf, who requires a massive golden earhorn to hear anything anyone tells him. Even then, he rarely gets it right—partly because of his Grumpy Old Man attitude and fondness for melodrama.
    Glimfeather: The girl's called "Jill."
    Trumpkin: Eh? The girls are all killed? What girls? Who killed 'em?

Live-Action TV
  • On How I Met Your Mother, whenever Barney claims to be Ted's best friend, Ted always corrects him that it's Marshall. Barney always bulldozes this by continuing "and as your best friend . . . "
  • In Survivor: Heroes Vs Villains, Russell Hantz. When his fellow Villains suggested getting rid of Sandra before the merge, he went after Courtney instead. When Parvati insisted Sandra would be more dangerous than Jerri in front of the jury, guess which of the two was the next one to go.

Newspaper Comics
  • The Pointy-Haired Boss from Scott Adams' Dilbert is legendary in-universe for selective hearing. This can both frustrate his underlings, or in some cases, they can exploit this flaw.

Video Games
  • Amaterasu, the Sun Goddesss and the playable character in Ōkami, has a very, very short attention span and is prone to napping in the middle of other characters explaining something to her.

Web Animation
  • In Homestar Runner, Homestar is prone to this, being both The Ditz and a Cloud Cuckoolander. For example, in "4 branches" , Coach Z tries to warn Homestar about the dangers of exposing a "flame pro-tardant polymascotfoamalate" costume to a campfire. Homestar zones out and imagines a commercial for polymascotfoamalate from the 1930s, then concludes "So I should be perfectly safe!" Then merrily goes on building a campfire inside the costume.

Web Comics
  • Middle Manager Kornada in Mark Stanley's Freefall is told by his robots that a raging hurricane necessitates an evacuation in the Friday 24 March 2000 strip. This hopeless Obstructive Bureaucrat won't budge, because "... it's not on the schedule." Florence has to trick him in order to get him to the evacuation point on the roof.

Western Animation
  • Exaggerated in the American Dad! episode "Stan Goes on the Pill", where men can only hear a faint hiss when forced to listen to a woman talk. Stan takes am experimental CIA pill that allows him to bridge the barrier and listen to Francine, but because he couldn't listen to the female scientist's advice about the dosage, he ends up turning into a woman.
  • Jason from Home Movies sometimes has this problem. In Season 4 "The Heart Smashers", after Brendon told him and Melissa how he's going to avoid Fenton after firing him and ending their friendship, Jason admits he wasn't listening. When Jason and Melissa are talking to Brendon about rehiring Fenton again, Jason thought they were going to hire Walter and Perry until Melissa corrects him.
    Melissa: You have to pay attention better, Jason. Okay?
    Jason: Um... what?
  • In The Weekenders, "Listen Up", this becomes a problem for Carver when he and his friends sign up to be helpers to help kids get over worrying about middle school and Carver doesn't help his kid by not listening to his problems. He spends the rest of the episode learning how to listen and comes to a realization when people don't listen to his problem. He eventually makes it up to his kid by the end.

Index

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • January 21, 2014
    Arivne
    Someone who's an Absent Minded Professor is often also this trope.

    Bad Listener? Poor Listener?
  • January 21, 2014
    DAN004
    Compare the YKTTW "Bored To Sleep"
  • January 21, 2014
    Koveras
    This is an inversion of Poor Communication Kills, I'd guess?
  • January 21, 2014
    ilniaj
    ^ I was thinking a sub-trope of it since listening is part of communication.
  • January 22, 2014
    MetaFour
    Also overlaps with Comically Missing The Point.
  • March 2, 2014
    Lakija
    husbands and boyfriends in media are portrayed as not being able to listen to their significant others.
  • March 2, 2014
    Andygal
    lots of people on Not Always Right, Not Always Working, and their sister sites.
  • March 2, 2014
    sgamer82
    No examples to think of, but I think there's a quote that could relate to this. Don't know the source though.
    Are you actually listening or just waiting for your turn to speak?
  • March 3, 2014
    RedneckRocker
    • On How I Met Your Mother, whenever Barney claims to be Ted's best friend, Ted always corrects him that it's Marshall. Barney always bulldozes this by continuing "and as your best friend . . . "
  • April 27, 2014
    ilniaj
    ^^Found the person who said it.
  • September 13, 2016
    notShemp
    • In The Weekenders, "Listen Up", this becomes a problem for Carver when he and his friends sign up to be helpers to help kids get over worrying about middle school and Carver doesn't help his kid by not listening to his problems. He eventually makes it up to him by the end.
  • November 23, 2015
    bitemytail
  • November 23, 2015
    DAN004
    So this counts deaf people?
  • November 23, 2015
    NoirGrimoir
    ^ In the sense that 'listens' is synonymous with 'paying attention' I would say so.
  • March 9, 2016
    notShemp
    Bump.
  • March 9, 2016
    Chabal2
    Christina in Discworld/Masquerade is both dimwitted and self-centered, to the point where Agnes tells her her father is the Emperor of Klatch and her mother is a small tray of rasperry pastries without any of it registering.
  • March 9, 2016
    marcoasalazarm
    Example (Comics): A Running Gag throughout the Tintin series is Professor Calculus never hearing correctly what Captain Haddock has to say. To be fair to the Professor, he is hard of hearing, but his deafness seems to become stronger any time Haddock (and only Haddock) says something (even if he's yelling it aloud).
  • March 9, 2016
    ANTMuddle
    Survivor: Heroes Vs Villains: Russell Hantz. When his fellow Villains suggested getting rid of Sandra before the merge, he went after Courtney instead. When Parvati insisted Sandra would be more dangerous than Jerri in front of the jury, guess which of the two was the next one to go.
  • March 9, 2016
    Kartoonkid95
    • Exaggerated in the American Dad episode "Stan Goes on the Pill", where men can only hear a faint hiss when forced to listen to a woman talk. Stan takes am experimental CIA pill that allows him to bridge the barrier and listen to Francine, but because he couldn't listen to the female scientist's advice about the dosage, he ends up turning into a woman.
  • September 19, 2016
    notShemp
    Bump
  • September 19, 2016
    DAN004
    Compare the ykttw Stopped Reading Too Soon
  • September 19, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Newspaper Comics
    • The Pointy-Haired Boss from Scott Adams' Dilbert is legendary in-universe for selective hearing. This can both frustrate his underlings, or in some cases, they can exploit this flaw.

    Webcomics
    • Middle Manager Kornada in Mark Stanley's Freefall is told by his robots that a raging hurricane necessitates an evacuation in the Friday 24 March 2000 strip. This hopeless Obstructive Bureaucrat won't budge, because "... it's not on the schedule." Florence has to trick him in order to get him to the evacuation point on the roof.
  • December 4, 2016
    notShemp
    Bump
  • January 25, 2017
    notShemp
    • Jason from Home Movies sometimes has this problem. In Season 4 "The Heart Smashers", after Brendon told him and Melissa how he's going to avoid Fenton after firing him and ending their friendship, Jason admits he wasn't listening. When Jason and Melissa are talking to Brendon about rehiring Fenton again, Jason thought they were going to hire Walter and Perry until Melissa corrects him.
      Melissa: You have to pay attention better, Jason. Okay?
      Jason: Um... what?
  • June 14, 2017
    notShemp
    Bump.
  • June 15, 2017
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Moved the General example to the Description as per How To Write An Example - Examples Are Not General.
      • Namespaced work names.

    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.
  • June 15, 2017
    Nazetrime
    Not to be confused with Not Listening To Me Are You, which is a common reaction to this trope.
  • June 15, 2017
    Getta
    Compare the trope Stopped R Eading Too Soon.
  • June 15, 2017
    Getta
    Compare the trope Stopped R Eading Too Soon.
  • October 6, 2017
    notShemp
    Bump.
  • October 20, 2017
    notShemp
    Since it's Up For Grabs, I'm taking over it.
  • October 20, 2017
    MetaFour
    • In Homestar Runner, Homestar is prone to this, being both The Ditz and a Cloud Cuckoolander. For example, in "4 branches" , Coach Z tries to warn Homestar about the dangers of exposing a "flame pro-tardant polymascotfoamalate" costume to a campfire. Homestar zones out and imagines a commercial for polymascotfoamalate from the 1930s, then concludes "So I should be perfectly safe!" Then merrily goes on building a campfire inside the costume.
  • October 25, 2017
    Jubileus57
    • Amaterasu, the Sun Goddesss and the playable character in Okami, has a very, very short attention span and is prone to napping in the middle of other characters explaining something to her.
  • December 21, 2017
    TheGreatConversation
    Revision fixes grammar/punctuation mistakes and ambiguous wording.
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