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Feeling Unheard? 6 Simple Tricks To Get People Listening

by Todd R. Nordstrom

She nodded. She even smiled. But, her eyes expressed an anxiousness that was obvious. And, she continued to nod—as if she agreed but just wanted me to stop talking…so she could start talking.

He didn’t seem to let anyone else speak. It was as if he thought that only his ideas were worth hearing. And, even when the other people in the meeting shared their opinion, he quickly dismissed them.

We’re all familiar people similar to the above examples. We all know people who don’t seem to listen. They just want to talk. But, THEY are not the point of this article. You are.

While we can blame a lot of people in our lives for being bad listeners—because there are many of them—we also need to ask ourselves the very serious question, “Is there something you could be doing to make people hear your thoughts?”

Here’s the truth. If you chose to read this article, then you might be:

A. Feeling like you’re not being heard or understood by one person (a manager, boss, friend, or significant other). If this is the reason you’re reading this, then the person might be similar to the ‘bad-listeners’ explained above. Or…

B. Feeling like nobody ever listens to your thoughts, ideas, and opinions. If this is the case, then—let’s be honest—there’s a highly probable chance that you are the problem. Maybe you don’t have a commanding personality. Maybe you speak too softly. Or, maybe you actually have a history of presenting unclear (…meaning others don’t understand you) thoughts.

While the ‘A’ and ‘B’ scenarios may seem like extremely different situations (and they are), the solutions to both are almost identically similar. This means, you can’t change the way someone else receives communication. The only thing you can change is how you communicate.

How do you get your voice—your ideas, thoughts, and opinions heard and understood? Here are 6 aspects of your communication you should consider. 

  1.  Learn your audience. This might seem like something you don’t need to spend too much time thinking about. Why? Most likely it’s because you assume you already know your audience. In fact, you’ve probably already spent too much time thinking about them, and the fact that they won’t listen to you. It can make you angry. But, ask yourself ‘how have I thought about my audience? instead of focusing on your anger, focus on their intentions, goals, and even egos. 
  2. Focus your conversation on them, not you. This might, at first, seem counterintuitive. You’re trying to share your thoughts and ideas. How can you get people to listen if your conversation is focused on their thoughts and ideas? It’s simple. Instead of saying, “I have an idea,” try “You just gave me an idea.” Instead of saying, “I think we should do this,” say, “You bring up a lot to think about, and we should also think about…” Changing the conversation to focus on them, and not you, means you’re validating their thoughts and opinions. And, when you do this, they’ll be more likely to validate yours.
  3. Be interesting, and interested. Okay, this sounds quirky. But, consider this. The most interesting people you know are most interested in something (whether you’re interested in their interests or not). Sally might like hairless cats. Jamal might be obsessed with BMX racing. You may not care about either. But, you still appreciate their interest. The point is, if you want to be interesting to other people, you must communicate your interests, and you need to respect the interests of others.  
  4. Make questions intentional. If you want people to listen to you, ask better questions. Again, you might be thinking that this piece of advice sounds counterproductive. How does asking someone else to talk more allow you to share more thoughts and opinions? It doesn’t. But it does force them to listen more. People always listen to questions. And, those questions will soon turn into a back and forth conversation. To make questions more intentional, focus on what you can learn from others rather than seeking approval from others. Someone may answer your question with a response you don’t like. Don’t be offended. Try to understand how to utilize their response. 
  5. Make statements concise. Many people believe that the more they speak, the more people will listen. However, this isn’t true. Think about the people you listen to the most. It’s not the amount of things they say that makes you listen. Instead it’s the information they provide, and the relevance of the stories they tell, that keeps you listening. Be concise with each statement. 
  6. Master timing. Make your voice heard by waiting for the right time to be heard. What does this mean exactly? It means that while you have many thoughts and ideas you’d like to share, those thoughts and ideas will be best received at specific times and places. And, to discover the perfect times and places, you need to listen, and be aware of all the other factors that may distract your audience from hearing you. Are they stressed about something else? Do they want to avoid ‘shop-talk’ at a social event? Be patient and wait for the perfect moment.

Feeling ‘unheard’ can be extremely frustrating. It may even make you feel inferior at times. However, by learning and practicing the 6 items above, you’ll soon realize that ‘being heard’ is much easier than you might believe. 

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