The Importance of “Listening Noises” in Neurotypical Conversation (And Why Those Noises May Mean the Exact Opposite If an Autistic Person Makes Them)

Two women having a conversation; one woman is Black wearing a blue shirt and glasses, the other is white with long, dark hair, her back to the camera. There is text that reads, 'The importance of "listening noises" in neurotypical communication".

Wow, did I learn something new from yesterday’s post!!

So, if you’re an autistic person, you may be one who has a tendency to relate to others during conversations by sharing your own experiences instead of listening and making “listening noises” like “Uh huh”, “OK”, “Hmmm…”.

And, if you’re anything like me, making those noises while someone is telling you something is about as comfortable as sitting on a cactus, and it makes about as much sense to do as hopping on one foot whenever someone tells you a story.

In short, making “listening noises” isn’t only something us autistic people don’t KNOW to do, when we find out we are expected to do it, it still makes absolutely no sense to us!

Well, a person very helpfully cleared up 40 years of confusion for me by pointing out the ACTUAL PURPOSE of listening noises!

Y’all, there’s a purpose to them!!

When neurotypical people talk to one another, it’s like a dance, especially if they don’t know each other well. They “test the waters”, so to speak, by talking about light topics first and slowly moving into deeper ones by gauging reactions, and one of the reactions they’re looking for is “listening noises”.

Roughly translated, the noises mean, “Please continue. I’m interested and not judging you. I’m open to hearing more”.

If you DON’T respond in this way, the neurotypical person believes you do not want to continue the conversation and will find a way to bow out, (which may leave you wondering what the heck happened).

Note: As an autistic person, when someone makes “listening noises” at me, I get confused and feel interrupted in my train of thought. Also, those noises mean something completely different to me as someone on the spectrum.

Check this out: If an autistic person is making “listening noises” at a neurotypical person, we are more than likely trying to politely get out of the conversation and hint that we are not interested in talking at this time, we are not encouraging you to go on. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

No wonder we often get so confused trying to talk to one another!

One of the best books I’ve ever read is A Field Guide to Earthlings. If you’re an autistic person, and you want to have a deeper understanding of neurotypical people, definitely pick up a copy of the book linked below.

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3 Responses

  1. Melissa says:

    I thought this whole time that they meant that they understood what we were talking about, agreeing with us, realizing or just learned something they never knew about. I had no idea that they were cues that meant that the person is interested and wants you to keep talking until now! The question I have now about this is if we’re doomed if we tried to do the same and we’re doomed if we don’t, then what the heck do we Autistic people do?

  1. April 24, 2020

    […] out to me on yesterday’s post was one where someone said that they (autistic) tended to make listening noises because that’s how they were taught but used them in the wrong context and still got on […]

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