Barney's Blog

Fake Listening


People often ask how I got so good at pretending to listen and I always answer, “Totally.”  No matter where you go someone’s going to try to tell you something boring, be it an irate boss, a dying grandparent, or a police officer shouting at you after you’ve finally managed to sneak onto the grounds of the Playboy mansion.

The secret to surviving these situations is the ability to act like you’re an engaged, active listener who actually gives a crap about whatever the hell they’re blathering on about.  This is especially important when a chick is talking to you.  If she suspects – for even a second – that instead of laughing along as she recounts the last night’s “Chelsea Lately” you are, in fact, mentally squeezing her into a tiny French maid costume complete with an incongruous bunny tail and whip, then your chances of that actually happening shrink all the way from 3% to 1%.  Ouch.

With that in mind, here are three techniques to help the sell the ruse that you’re actually listening.

According to science, eye contact is a universal sign of acknowledgement.  While scanning the room or bar for other hotties, try to make eye contact with the speaker at least once every few minutes.

From time to time you’ll need to present a facial expression that suggests you’re understanding / empathizing / agreeing with whatever the speaker is saying.  Since you won’t have any clue what she’s talking about, it’s best to simply cycle through some different reactions in a process I like to call “psychopathic masking.”  Here’s a simple four-emotion progression I go through and how I achieve the desired facial expression:

•    SURPRISE: Paint a picture in your mind of the hottest chick ever.  Guess what?  She’s got a twin!

•    DISGUST: Think of a bro who has finally decided to dress like an adult only to reveal he’s rocking a braided belt with his suit.  (I just visualize Ted).

•    ANGER: I like to think back to November 7, 2004, when I had a substantial wager on “the under” for total points scored between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns and Ed Reed intercepted a pass in the end zone as the clock expired but instead of taking a knee and ending the game like any civilized human being would do he SENSELESSLY RAN IT BACK 104 YARDS FOR A TOUCHDOWN THAT COST ME FIVE FIGURES!

•    DELIGHT: “Due to an unfortunate lack of hard evidence the Securities and Exchange Commission must suspend the investigation of Goliath National Bank and its corporate officers.”


One of the biggest keys to fake listening is issuing a response to a conversation that you’ve had absolutely no part of.  Fortunately, there are a few words and phrases that vaguely apply to almost any discussion:

•    “Totally.”
•    “Ruh roh!”
•    “You’re kidding.”
•    “I know, right?”
•    “Preaching to the choir!”
•    “Then what?”
•    “Do you have a picture?”

To illustrate this concept, randomly choose a response from the above list and apply it to one of these prompts:

SPEAKER:  I just can’t stand a guy who doesn’t value what I have to say, you know?
YOU:  __________________________

SPEAKER:  And that’s why public pools have a sign that says, “Please shower before entering”.
YOU:  __________________________

SPEAKER:  Now we just cross our fingers and wait for the results.
YOU:  __________________________

SPEAKER:  Blah blah blah blah shoe sale blah blah.
YOU:  __________________________

SPEAKER:  She’s three years younger than me and if I really have to choose one of those very specific ways of describing my sister I guess I’ll go with “curvaceous but not plump.”
YOU:  __________________________

  • julia

    I think i just fell in love a gay fictive role of a Tv series…

    • julia


  • Not_much_GIRL_girl

    I’m going to use it on blokes 3:)
    Thanks Barney !

  • Comic book guy

    i’m good with all this but I can’t divert my concentration, i listen and feel bad. any suggestion?

    • Spasmodius


    • fedeb

      do you have a picture?

  • tobias

    I think it is interesting how you, a fictive person,
    are thinking about things and writing a blog. You must have done a lot of research
    in the things you are writing about, because you really know many things about
    the themes you are writing about.

    You wrote three tips, which should help us to do as if we are listening to
    others although we think of completely other things. You must spend much time
    in trying out all this things. You have written it into a very nice text, which
    is easy to understand.

    I think I am going to try it out to see, if it really is working. (;

    • Spasmodius

      Preaching to the choir!

    • fedeb


  • stephen



    Wonder if they ever notice

  • dexter

    I know, right?

  • Barney


  • Only the classiest

    Great blog, thanks Barney!

  • Not A Victim

    Ruh Roh!


    Cool, it works.