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How many times have you felt like you were talking to the hand – a line and “gesture which surfaced in the 1990s in which the palm of the hand is held in front of the original speaker’s face”? Whether it comes from a spouse, partner, child, friend, or family member, and whether the hand is actually raised or not, the speaker senses a dismissing of what is about to be said. Emotions flair as a breakdown in communications and understanding follows. The inability or appearance of an inability to listen is a symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Identifying poor listening skills as a disorder requires a medical professional. The counselors and therapists of Improving Lives Counseling Services diagnosis and treat personality disorders in children, teens, adolescents, and adults.

Poor listening skills are often identified as rude or a failure to comply with social norms. Once primarily seen in children; teens, adolescents, millennials, and adults can be observed displaying rude, defiant activities. Cells phones, head phones, ear buds, and multi-tasking often give an appearance of not listening. Researchers found technological advances in methods of communicating and in communication devices directly affects listening behavior – negating John B. Watson’s theory of behaviorism: “Any person, regardless of his or her background, can be trained to act in a particular manner given the right conditioning.” They also found Watson’s theory that human behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning without appeal to thoughts or feelings challenged by technological advances and social norms of the 21st century. We are living in a different time. “Are you listening, I’m only going to say this once?”, “Did you hear me? Do I need to repeat myself?”, and “I’ve told you over and over again,” seems to fall on deaf ears.

Children who observe parents failing to put down the phone or turn away from a computer screen when they are talking, copy the behavior. Parents using mobile devices in meetings and in classrooms, interrupting parent-teacher meetings to take calls and checking email in social and religious gatherings give an impression of not listening. Loren Frank, a neuroscientist at the University of California says smartphone users don’t even consciously realize they are checking their phones every ten minutes – “it’s an unconscious behavior.” In an age of constant never-ending access to family, friends, social, and news media, multiple activities get partial attention; subconsciously diffusing focus. Automatism, the performance of actions without conscious intention is a disorder treatable by the medical professionals of Improving Lives Counseling Services.

There is a major difference in cultural problems of the 21st century and a medical personality or behavioral disorder. Showing interest, hearing, and understanding that “the opposite of listening is waiting to speak”, is essential in building relationships. However, deciphering social convention from blatant rudeness is as challenging as determining when to punish a child for not listening and when to seek professional help. Improving Lives Counseling Services’ team of counselors and therapists can rule out panic disorder, ADHD, PTSD, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, all of which carry symptoms of poor listening skills. Early diagnosis and treatment of personality and behavioral disorders with symptoms of poor listening skills is essential. Mental health screening allows you and those you care about most to live the life you were meant to live. Call us.