A lecturer spends 15 minutes detailing how their business is different from a competitor, and invariably, an attendee raises his hand to interrupt with a burning question, "But can you tell us how you’re different from a competitor?"

Huh? Where has this person been for the last 15 minutes? Why waste the lecturer’s time and irritate other attendees who have been listening?

You leave a detailed voicemail that says, "I’m so and so, and my order number is XYZ that I placed on September 15 at 9:15 a.m. Can you tell me if my order has shipped — please call me back and let me know?" And you get a reply voicemail that says simply, "I’m returning your call; please call me back."

Why reply with a nonreply when you’ve left all the information the company’s customer service rep needed to formulate a meaningful reply? Why respond with "call me back?" Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave a reply that says "Yes, we shipped your order today with an expected delivery date in five days." Didn’t the person listen to the voicemail at all?

Or, you call a company’s customer service department and tell them to cancel your automatic delivery of their product. "Yes, yes, I am glad to help you and be of service today. What can I do for you?" comes the nonsensical reply when you’ve already stated what it is that you want them to do. You wonder if they’re listening at all.

Or, I email a hotel and tell them about my special clients arriving on a certain day to celebrate their anniversary, giving all the client details, arrival/departure details, room category, booking number, etc.

Again, I’m frustrated when I get an email reply that says they’d be most hospitable to my clients and could I please provide the clients’ details of arrival, etc. What? Did you even read my email at all beyond the descriptive subject line; did you even read the subject line for that matter? Does no one read anymore?

I encounter these one-sided phone conversations, in-person conversations, emails, voicemails, lectures daily.

Even those automated voice robots aren’t listening!

I called an international telecommunications company the other day with the intention of asking if they would itemize my bill instead of the bundled bill that came in the mail.

The automated robot who answered the phone, probably in the name of efficiency, gave me several options, none of which included speaking to a human being. I clicked on the closest issue, and the robot wanted to know if I want to pay my bill. No.

My next option was to hang up or go back to Main Menu. I went back to Main Menu where nothing has changed. I tried saying in simple terms that I needed to speak with someone. The robot replied that I could only make a payment via their automated service. But I didn’t want to make a payment — I wanted to talk with someone.

I clicked a different prompt and then the robot said they know I have a service interruption which will be fixed in a few hours. Huh? What service interruption?? Forty-five minutes later, I realize that I have been shouting at a robot who refuses to listen to me. Who designs these things?

I call an airline to confirm my flights; the voice robot directs me to input my booking number in order to efficiently route me to the right person. So I input 123456, and the robot confirms my booking number is ABCDE. Do they even sound similar? Is this efficient?

I’m sure you’ve encountered this, too, where you seem to be repeating yourself all the time because no one is listening. What is going on?

Is the intent to just frustrate your customers into hanging up the phone without wasting a real employee’s valuable time to address your issue? Or are we all so important and thinking about our own concerns and what we want to say that the art of listening and paying attention is long-forgotten?

Conversations are meant to be engaging, meaningful dialogues, not monologues. The crux of communication, regardless of its oral or written mode, is to give and receive information. There’s no advancement in the conversation if one side is giving information, but the recipient is not receiving it for whatever reason.

Wouldn’t all our interactions be less stressful and more efficient if we just paid attention and listened to each other?