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This is my first time here, and I am hoping this community can help me out.

The context is as follows:

I witnessed a slow transition from awareness and excitement to Wallace's "natural state" - irritability, discontent, and a lack of listening skills.

Could anyone recommend a single word, or perhaps a better wording, for the bold text?

Thanks,

David

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Words like inattentive, distracted, distrait, oblivious come to mind.

Since lack of listening skills as a phrase is broad—there are many ways in which someone can be a poor listener—you might want to just use the phrase itself.

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    "Inattentive" and "distrait" are both fantastic. Thank you! – David Baylies Apr 20 '15 at 19:27
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I witnessed a slow transition from awareness and excitement to Wallace's "natural state" - irritable†, discontent, and inattentive‡.

†Note: you may want to change irritability to irritable. Irritability is a noun that is a state of being, while irritable is an adjective that describes a noun's referent; in this case: Wallace's "natural state."

Inattentive (adj.)

  1. Of or pertaining to lack of attention; not paying attention; careless.

He was inattentive in class and did not do well in his exams.

‡Alternatives:

Ignorant (adj.)

  1. Unknowledgeable or uneducated; characterized by ignorance.
  2. (slang) ill-mannered, crude.

Unmindful (adj.)

  1. lacking awareness; oblivious
  2. failing to remember or recognize something; heedless

Close-minded (adj.) [alternately spelled: closed-minded]

  1. unreceptive to new ideas or information; not open to any agreement.
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Lack of listening skills is often due to self-absorption, in extreme cases solipsism:

self-absorption

[MASS NOUN]
1 Preoccupation with one’s own emotions, interests, or situation:

solipsism

1.1 The quality of being self-centred or selfish.

ODO

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  • That's helpful, although solipsism would be taking it a bit far. Thanks for the insight. – David Baylies Apr 20 '15 at 19:28
  • Sorry if I got carried away, namesake, but poor listeners are very much a bête noire of mine. – David Pugh Apr 20 '15 at 19:39
  • I think this suggestion goes too far. It attempts to explain why someone is a poor listener, which is more than a term for the fact that someone is a poor listener. – Martin Krzywinski Apr 20 '15 at 21:21
  • You're right, but please look again at the context of describing Wallace, where I submit that it would work. Also, I don't like your dictionary definition of solipsism, which I understand as a disbelief in the existence of others or an outside world for them to be in. It's more radical than mere selfishness. – David Pugh Apr 20 '15 at 21:47
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If a person does not seem to understand what's being said, by either a lack of focus or an incapacity to actively listen, I would probably describe him or her as dense.

From
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dense&defid=6219904
"Not exactly stupid, the person can be book smart but can also be: thick headed, clueless, lacking common sense, unable to catch onto hints"

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