Uh-huh. The a,b,c of faking it.


My daughter is now talking. More and more everyday. New words splurge out of her little face hole, on a  daily basis. Seemingly without end. Or reason.

Wifey and I are of course as proud as any good parents would be. Should be. We smile inanely at each other, wrinkling our noses, as our beautiful baby girl in-articulates simple words and phrases in a goo-goo-gaa-gaa kind of way. We are indeed truly blessed. I suppose.

I have a problem with all of this.

Uh-huh a problem you say..

I am now forced to pretend to listen to another person. Bugger. There are already two people in the house that I have to give the impression of listening to, and now there is a third.  It’s exhausting, not really listening; if you do it properly that is. I’m not talking about plain old not-listening, that’s easy, you just don’t listen. Problem with not-listening is that everyone knows you’re not listening, because generally you don’t:

a) Respond to them

b) Look at them

C) Even know they are in the room

In my experience, not-listening is simply a recipe for having to listen EVEN more than you would have done, if you’d just listened in the first place. This is an unacceptable and fool-hardly mistake made by the inexperienced.  Furthermore this tact usually necessitates the need for talking and NOBODY wants to go down that road. So not-listening – don’t do it. Just say Zammo.

No sir, I am talking about the pretend-listen. Pretend-listening is both an art form and exhausting. The experienced pretend-listener can, when a person (who should know better) attempts to engage them:

a) Respond to them

B) Look at them

c) Even know they are in the room.

Lets’ break each of those sub-headings down further, to better pick-a-part the skill of the pretend-listener-artiste.

a) uh-huh responding -mmmmm

The experienced pretend-listener can indeed respond to a person over-waffling their cake-hole, in a timely and seemingly attentive manner. But listen carefully and the responses of the pretend-listener are 2-dimensional and, were you to engage them for long enough and were you to pay attention for long enough, you would realise that the pretend-listener’s responses are in fact on a loop. Even the most experienced of pretend-listeners only has on average 11 primed fake-listening responses. Generally because they can’t be buggered learning any more. They are:

1. uh-huh

2. Ok

3. Oh!

4. *tut*

5. Really?

6. Wow

7. *fake laugh*

8. Mmmmm

9. Yes.

10. No

11. *nodding*

Now the skill of the pretend-listener, is knowing exactly where in the loop to start the pretend-listening responses AND how long to leave it before the next response is required, making sure of course that the chosen response is an appropriate one for the point of time in the pretend-listen. All while not really listening. EXHAUSTING. Why, oh why, oh WHY people force other people into  this on a daily basis is beyond me. Why don’t we all just shaddup?

B) Uh-huh looking – ok

A pretend-listener worth their salt will always look at you. Always.  And what is more, they will often look you directly in the eye. For extend periods of time. But look again. Look closely. Closer. See it? Their eyes are glazed over. Because? THEY ARE NOT REALLY LISTENING TO YOU. The person you are now selfishly blah-blah-blahing has sub-diverted their very essence into stasis and is absent-mindedly thinking about having sex with either their partner, someone off the telly, or you. (Of course the first option is ludicrous but Wifey may be reading).

You can test out this theory if you don’t believe me. The next time you are talking to someone you consider may be pretend-listening to you, midway through your pointless ear waffle raise both your eyebrows in a sexy ‘how about it’ kind of way. A real-listener will stumble over their words, loose their train of thought and possibly blush. The pretend-listener will not flinch and will only respond at all, if the words that you were saying while you sexed up ‘how about it’ have an appropriate verbal response in the pre-banked loop.

* It should be noted that if you attempt the pretend-listener-sexy-eye-brow-raise-detector (patent pending) you do so at your own risk. I know of a gentlemen over in Hastings who incurred the unwarranted solicitations of a Polish builder, whilst attempting to determine whether or not he was paying attention.*

C) Uh-huh even knowing they are in the room – really

If the pretend-listener has adequately performed the first two parts (a, b) then (c) is a mere formality, requiring little else other than perhaps: passing something, picking something up, shuffling up  a bit, or heavy petting and possibly fore-play.

Whilst (c) is described as a ‘formality’, the skill of simultaneously pretend-listening, responding AND moving – whether up, down, in or out, is still extremely challenging for the uninitiated and should not be entered into lightly.  In my youth, whilst unwittingly over confident in my pretend-listening abilities, I once narrowly escaped arrest whilst attempting to respond and react whilst pretend-listening in an intimate situation.The Police Officer attending issued me with no more than a verbal caution. I think. I wasn’t really listening. I do remember he had piercing blue eyes though…..

Uh-huh moving forward.

So I shall induct my daughter in my pretend-listening. She is already well versed, but just doesn’t know it. Her still forming baby brain is far too emergent and inexperienced to notice the nuances of  the responses she gets from me. To her, running to the door and shouting ‘IT’S DADDY‘ and walking around the house looking for me shouting ‘DADDY NEED POO!‘ are one in the same.

Of course for the former I am stood on the threshold, weary and encapsulated by the sight of her. The latter, I am hiding behind the sofa, softly whispering ‘Find Mummy, Mummy do it‘ attempting to surreptitiously engage her subconscious, sending her wayward in search of Wifey.

See that’s my new thing I have decided. Surreptitiously engaging your subconscious for my dastardly ends. SO. When you think I am listening, I am not. Not really. I am pretending. I am either thinking about boinking you, or Darren-Browning you into doing my evil bidding. Or just not listening.

Take my advice. DO NOT TALK TO ME. It’s better for all of us.

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  1. Fabulously funny, as usual, Sam.
    I myself, am a master of pretend listening. I think all teachers are, well all the good ones anyway. Slightly different repertoire of response: “That’s really good, now go and check the spelling.” When child reads work out to you, “you can share that with everyone at show and tell next Wednesday.” When child babbles on about exciting event and “Amazing, go and get a Gold Award from the Head” when you’ve finished pretend listening but child looks like they’re good for more.

  2. Brilliant as ever.

    I considered myself as a master. Turns out I’m far from it. Last week I bought a house because of my amateurism. A master would pick up on the essence of the conversation before switching off. I not only pretended I’d looked at a house on the internet, I then responded later on with a,

    “Yeah, it was really, really nice”.

    One too many really’s! Schoolboy error. She put an offer in the next day. On a house I’d not even seen. Apparently we’d discussed it?

    It took some getting out of.

    Lesson learnt. From now on I ask if the conversation will require a mortgage before my mind goes elsewhere.

  3. Sarah Miles

    Have achieved all three in the past half an hour, the key to pretend listening is, hearing through the sound of white noise, the tone and key words, if you hear surprised or angry white noise then you need to grunt with appropriate noises. Also train your brain to automatically pick up certain words phrases through the white noise, such as “sex”, “what do you want for…..?” and “would you like?”

    • It would seem we are singing from the same hymn sheet Sarah. Luckily we have never met or married; two pretend-listeners would be problematic. Just a man and a women not really listening, exchanging gifts and having…hang on….that sounds AWESOME. I’ll be there by tea-time. :)

  4. Sarah Miles

    Oh my dear friend, mine is a pretend listener also, which also works to my advantage. I can get all indignant and say “I bloody told you last week!! Why do you never listen??” And get all indignant about how lonely I feel and about how I must be a second class citizen with no opinion just here to cook and clean after you. Thus leading to more gifts and sex….
    The beauty being, I never actually told him…

  5. *Falls over laughing* LOVE this post. I’m constantly complaining to my husband that he doesn’t listen – until he mentions that I tune out his inane chatter every day. He says I play elevator music in my head. Very true.

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