4 Body Language Signs That Mean Someone Isn't Listening to You, According to Therapists
Ask them what you just said, and they'll have no idea.
There are few things more disappointing than feeling ignored in a conversation. While the person you're chatting with might give you certain cues—things like appropriately timed head nods, affirmations, and agreements—you might still get the sense that they're not totally listening. Of course, this could be caused by a host of things, from a distraction in their personal life, a song on the radio, or the simple fact that they'd rather be doing something else. Whatever it is, it's often easy to spot. To become a pro at identifying people who are zoned out, read on for these expert-approved body language signs that someone isn't listening.
They lack eye contact.
A wandering eye is a sure sign you don't have someone's full attention. "This can be especially true if their gaze drifts off into the distance or toward other people in the room," says Megan Harrison, LMFT, of Couples Candy. "Rather than being interested in what you have to say, they'd rather direct their attention elsewhere." You can try to refocus them with a gentle nudge, especially if what's going on around you is genuinely distracting.
They fidget with their hands.
You can also check someone's hands for a solid indicator of how intently they're listening. "People might fidget with their hands or intertwine their fingers when they're not listening, as this could be a sign that they are anxious and distracted," says Harison. "Additionally, people who aren't engaged in conversation may drum their fingers on the table or rub the palms of their hands together—both signs that the person isn't paying attention to what's being said." Their anxiety could be caused by something as simple as boredom or a thought that's going on in their head.
However, there's a second side to this one. "Some people, like those with ADHD, might fidget in an attempt to improve their attention," says KayLee Dunn, licensed clinical social worker and betrayal navigation coach. "Research indicates that memory recall, problem-solving, and ability to focus improves with physical activity for those with ADHD." If someone's particularly fidgety, don't jump to conclusions. They could be doing their best to give you their all in the conversation.
They're turned away from you.
The way a person positions their body during a conversation could say a lot about their level of listening. "When humans are listening to one another, they are showing attunement with their bodies like being turned towards the person who is talking or expressing," says therapist Chrystal Roberts, LPC, LPCS. "Full-frontal positioning isn't necessarily the point, but their general stance, direction, and the angle of shoulders, face, and even feet are strong cues as to whether or not they are engaged in the conversation." If a person is truly listening and feeling connected to you, you might even notice them mirroring your body language.
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Their vibe is off.
One of the top body language signs that someone isn't listening to you is simply that you get a gut feeling that they aren't. "For the most part, as humans, we have the ability to sense when we are being attuned to, or when we 'feel felt,'" says Dunn. "When we don't feel felt, we can sense that the other person is distant, and it usually causes some level of distress."
The feeling could happen on a date, a friend gathering, or an outing with your partner. Perhaps the other person is usually super poised, but they're sitting there tapping their foot. Or they're not smiling when you're telling a funny story. Whatever the case, if you sense their energy is off, it probably is.