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No Listening Skills

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Someone who is terrible at listening to other people.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
ilniaj on Jan 20th 2014 at 10:25:03 PM
Last Edited By:
TheGreatConversation on Dec 21st 2017 at 11:29:15 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

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

Feedback: 34 replies

Jan 21st 2014 at 7:30:18 AM

Compare the YKTTW "Bored To Sleep"

Jan 21st 2014 at 8:54:40 PM

^ I was thinking a sub-trope of it since listening is part of communication.

Mar 2nd 2014 at 9:12:35 PM

husbands and boyfriends in media are portrayed as not being able to listen to their significant others.

Mar 2nd 2014 at 9:45:23 PM

lots of people on Not Always Right, Not Always Working, and their sister sites.

Mar 2nd 2014 at 11:19:52 PM

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?

Mar 3rd 2014 at 6:02:02 PM

  • 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 . . . "

Apr 27th 2014 at 12:34:14 PM

^^Found the person who said it.

Sep 13th 2016 at 1:29:54 PM

  • 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.

Nov 23rd 2015 at 3:28:53 PM

So this counts deaf people?

Nov 23rd 2015 at 5:30:31 PM

^ In the sense that 'listens' is synonymous with 'paying attention' I would say so.

Mar 9th 2016 at 11:23:04 AM

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.

Mar 9th 2016 at 5:59:15 PM

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).

Mar 9th 2016 at 5:47:41 PM

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.

Mar 9th 2016 at 8:16:25 PM

  • 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.

Sep 19th 2016 at 8:09:41 PM

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.

Jan 25th 2017 at 10:57:03 AM

  • 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?

Jun 15th 2017 at 2:13:59 AM

  • 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.

Jun 15th 2017 at 11:17:52 AM

Not to be confused with Not Listening To Me Are You, which is a common reaction to this trope.

Oct 20th 2017 at 3:41:42 PM

Since it's Up For Grabs, I'm taking over it.

Oct 20th 2017 at 9:18:27 PM

  • 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.

Oct 25th 2017 at 3:34:48 PM

  • 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.

Dec 21st 2017 at 11:18:54 AM

Revision fixes grammar/punctuation mistakes and ambiguous wording.

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