Although a certain amount of error has to be expected with all non-verbal signals, the signs of inattention while listening generally include:
Lack of eye contact with the speaker. Listeners who are engaged with the speaker tend to give eye contact. Lack of eye contact can, however, also be a sign of shyness.
An inappropriate posture. Examples include slouching, leaning back or ‘swinging’ on a chair, leaning forward onto a desk or table and/or a constantly shifting posture. People who are paying attention tend to lean slightly towards the speaker.
Being distracted. Fidgeting, doodling, looking at a watch, yawning.
Inappropriate expressions and lack of head nods. Often when a listener is engaged with a speaker, they nod their head, which is usually an almost subconscious way of encouraging the speaker and showing attention. Lack of head nods can mean the opposite – listening is not happening. The same can be true of facial expressions; attentive listeners use smiles as feedback mechanisms and to show attention.