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Why don't people listen

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Some people just don't listening. Everyone's encountered them. I usually get them on the phone--the customer service reps--and when they talk, they don't listen to me when I try to intervene with my own input. For example, I was on the phone the other day with a bank rep. I had transferred some funds from them to a different institution and was charged a $50 fee for doing so. The other institution I transfered money to was willing to compensate me for the $50 fee but wanted proof that the original institution charged it. The rep on the phone was explaining to me that they don't issue out statements indicating the fee but it is their policy to charge $50. While he was rambling on and on about it, I tried to intervene with the suggestion that if it is a policy, they must have it written somewhere and that if he could direct me to their terms and policy on their website (where presumably the $50 fee is stated), I could forward that to the other institution. But I tried 3 times to suggest that to him without his hearing me at all. He just kept rambling on for 5 minutes. Finally, when he was done, I repeated my question for the fourth time, and then he heard me, forwarding me to the excat spot where the transfer fee was stated.

But my question is not about banking or self-absorbed bank reps... it's about how the human brain listens when interupted. I'm wondering if some people's brain literally block other people out when they're talking. Was the bank rep really that self-absorbed or could he literally not hear me while he was talking. I've only ever noticed this while on the phone. In person, it seems people generally notice when I've trying to intervene and stop talking. So it might require some visual cues for some. Then I wonder if everyone's like this--even me. I do remember plenty of times being interrupted (and stopping to listen to the other person), but do I remember every time? And do I remember times like this while on the phone with someone?

I think this is an interesting question for neurology and I wonder if any studies have been done to answer it.

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It sounds a bit like a confirmation bias. The bank rep thought he knew what you needed, his brain provided the script for dealing with you, and the things you tried to say didn't fit with the pattern he'd chosen.

Really good salespeople train to speak as little as possible, and when they do say something it's to ask a question that encourages the client to speak. They know who's the important person in that conversation. 

Often with customer service, the rep hears what he/she thinks is the problem, and their mind starts working to fix it, which means they miss it when you state the real problem. It doesn't help when their employer times their calls for efficiency, since it pressures them to leap out of the starting gate too soon, as it were.

But in general, I've noticed some people will sort of zone out soon after you start speaking to them. You can usually see their eyes lose focus on you. They've jumped on something you first said, and are formulating a response to it in their heads instead of listening to all of what you said. I don't think folks like this trust themselves to think on their feet, so they develop ways to gain more time to think, so the conversation goes smoothly, without too many pauses. Another trick like that is using filler words like "um" and "well". Some folks think silence is uncomfortable.

Also, phone conversations are always a bit different from talking IRL. Without seeing people's faces to accompany the words, a lot of context is lost. IRL, the rep would have seen your face, would have seen you trying interrupt, would have seen you shaking your head, and hopefully would have shut up and let you speak much sooner.


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