It can be hard to feel like you’re being heard, whether it’s in a meeting at work, with your significant other, or simply out and about in the world. While there’s no magical formula to make people listen to you, there are things you can do in certain situations to make it more likely that you’ll be listened to.
Being Heard at Work
Match your communication style to your audience. An important part of being heard, especially at work, is to make sure you’re speaking in the most effective way for your audience. Always consider who it is that you’re going to be speaking to when you’re trying to get heard.
Consider how they speak: do they speak quickly, rapid-firing their ideas?Do they speak more slowly and with more consideration?
If you speak rapidly to a slower-paced person they’re more likely to shut down no matter how good your ideas are. You want to set your speaking pace to your audience’s listening pace.
Know your colleagues. This is part of matching your communication style to your audience, but you need to know how to speak effectively to your colleagues. If you want them to hear you, then you need to speak on their level, which requires figuring out what that level is.
Find out what makes them tick and shape your idea to their perspective. If they maintain a blog, read it, if they write articles for a magazine relating to your field, check it out. You want insight into their ideas.
Figure out what topics they’re interested in and what they value. To be heard effectively you have to gear your ideas towards what will interest your colleagues most. For example: if you find that your colleague is really interested saving the environment, then you might try and show how your idea will help with saving the environment.
Keep yourself well-informed. You really don’t want to be that person in a meeting that just blurts out ideas without having the faintest idea what’s going on. Make sure that you know what is going to be covered in the meeting, or at work.
A good way to be able to talk knowledgeably and be heard during a meetingor discussion is if you’re prepared some topics and opinions on the subject beforehand. This will give you a jumping off point for expressing your ideas, especially if you’re naturally more reticent.
Choose a means of expression that’s best for you. You want to play to your strengths when you’re discussing an idea you have, or describing a work situation, while still keeping in mind your audience. If you’re best at making a PowerPoint, then use that as the medium through which you express your ideas.
People learn and absorb information in different ways. You met test out whether your colleagues or the people in a meeting are visual learners, or auditory learners.
Mixing up your styles of presenting information is also a good way to make sure that people are still following. For example: you might have a PowerPoint, a handout, and a small discussion on your idea.
Jump in there early. This is especially important if you’re someone who has difficulty talking in a meeting or a discussion. If you have ideas, jump in there early. Hanging back will mean either someone says your idea before you, or the conversation will get too heated and you won’t feel comfortable jumping in.
Obviously, don’t jump in if no one has posed a question or asked for ideas. It will look a bit presumptuous.
Ask questions. Often, people are so focused on getting their ideas out there that they forget that asking questions can be just as important, and sometimes even better than simply presenting ideas. Questions can help clarify issues or get people thinking about a problem differently. For example, if people are discussing how best to maximize the work day,ask what it is that the boss is looking for, ask where the problem areas are, and so on.
Prepare questions ahead of time, even if you don’t use them. This canhelp prepare you and help clarify your own thinking.
Make eye contact. You want people to pay attention when you’re speaking so you feel that you’re being heard. Making eye contact with folks around the room means that they’re more likely to turn their brains on when you’re talking.
Making eye contact also shows that you have confidence in yourself and in your ideas, which makes people more likely to consider them,make sure you don’t give off the impression that you’re staring at them though. Make eye contact but blink when needed so the person doesn’t think you’re staring.
This will also help you to make sure that people are listening and engaging with whatever it is you’re saying. If you see that people aren’t listening or don’t seem interested you may need to reconsider how you present your ideas.
Engage your audience. Make sure that your methods of showing your ideas are clear and concise, or else your ideas may go in one ear, and out the other.
Don’t expect anyone to ask you for your opinion. While this can be true in all different parts of life, it holds especially true in work instances. A lot times people are so busy presenting their own ideas they’re not going to ask you what yours are because they’re going to assume that if you had an idea you’d speak up.
You have to make the conscious effort to be heard, to speak up. If you don’t, then you’re simply not going to be heard. It might take a little while to get comfortable speaking up, but the more you do it, the better you will get.
This is something that can be especially difficult for women, who aretaught not to interrupt and that interrupting is rude.
Being Heard in a Relationship
Choose the right time. Part of making sure that you’re actually being heard is picking the right time and the right place. This is especially important if you’re needing to have a conversation about a difficult subject. You want to choose a private moment rather than make something a public event. So if there’s some sort of problem, having it out with your significant other in front of the entire family on Christmas eve isn’t going to be conducive to communication.
Likewise, picking a time when you’re both grumpy or already upset (on along drive, for example) is going to make the other person less likely to hear you.
Know what you want to say in advance. While you don’t necessarily need to write down your talking points word for word, it’s a good idea to know what points you want to touch on. This is especially important if you’re shy or tend to have more difficulty thinking on your feet.
This can also keep you on track during a conversation itself, becauseyou’ll be better able to remember the things that you need to talk about.
Check if the other person is open to hearing you. While this ties in with the picking the right time and place, it’s important that you tell when someone is open to hearing you. If they aren’t, it rarely matters what you say or how you say it. If someone isn’t open to hearing you, they aren’t going to hear you.
Their body language language can communicate a lot to you. If they’returned away from you, not making eye contact, or their arms are crossed across their chest, then they’re likely feeling defensive, or not wanting to listen to you.
If they are being aggressive, or angry, then it’s going to be verydifficult to get them to listen to what you’re saying. In that instance, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation as best as possible.
Make sure your own body language is conducive to speaking. When you’re trying to get someone to hear you, you need to make sure that your body language is communicating that. Do your best to avoid shutting down conversation by paying attention to what your body language is saying.
If you can sit next to the person you’re trying get to hear you. Make sure that you keep enough distance between you and them so it doesn’t feel like you’re crowding them, but close enough that there’s a connection between you two.
Keep your tone of voice and your body language as neutral as possible.Avoid crossing your arms across your chest, or balling up your hands into fists. Keep your chest as open as possible.
Maintain eye contact with the other person. This will help you to judge how they’re feeling, and whether they’re still listening to you, and it will help keep a connection between the two of you.
Set the stage. You’re trying to engage the other person without shutting them down. If you shut the other person down straight off the bat, you’re going to find it next to impossible to get them to hear you. What you want to do is make this discussion a shared inquiry rather than an accusation. As an example you could say something like “I have a problem, and I’m wondering if you can help me with it” and segue into explaining that you need help taking care of the kids.
A second example might be something like “I’m confused, I’d really like it if you could try and help me understand” and then go on to explain that you feel that there’s a distance between the two of you and you’d really like to work on bridging that distance.
Express vulnerability rather than anger. Anger tends to be a mask for something deeper and more vulnerable, like fear or pain. When you launch directly into anger you’re shutting down the avenues of conversation rather than opening them up.
Vulnerability, while much harder (and scarier) to express, is more likelyto be heard. This means, though, that you’re going to have to share your hurt in a more thoughtful manner.
This is why “I” statements are so incredibly important. You’re explaining why you’re hurt or why you’re upset. For example: “I was hurt when you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, because it felt like my important recital wasn’t as important as getting home and putting your feet up” is so much better and more open than “You always forget to do things. I guess you just don’t care about this important recital!”
Be open to listening yourself. A conversation and being heard is not a one-way street. You can’t count on someone being willing to listen to you, if you aren’t willing to listen to them. It can be hard to hear things about yourself or about the relationship that clash with what you’ve been thinking, but if you want them to hear you, you have to hear them.
Hear what the other person has to say. If you’re not willing to listen when your significant other explains their side — “I forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning, because I’ve been so stressed about our child’s failing grades in school” — then you’re not going to get anywhere.
When the other person is talking, cultivate active listening. If you space out or get absorbed in your own thoughts, ask them to repeat what they just said. Look them in the eye when they talk and pay attention to what they’re saying, rather than focusing on what you’re going to say next.
Cultivate your sense of humor. Important conversations, getting people to listen to you, opening up when you’re hurt or upset. All these things can be incredibly difficult and emotionally draining. If you can approach them with humor, you’re more likely to get further.
After all, people tend to be more open to listening to you when you’re humorous about the situation than when you’re emotionally charged.
Accept that sometimes the other person is not open to listening. You can’t always be heard. You just can’t. It doesn’t matter if you do everything “right.” You set the stage, you pick the right time, you stay neutral instead of getting angry. Sometimes people aren’t ready for what you have to say, and sometimes they’ll never be.
If someone cannot or will not hear what you have to say, you may need to reconsider whether it’s worth having a relationship with them.
Being Heard in a Social Setting
Consider whether you need to talk. The thing about being heard is that you need to do it at the right time. That means that you’re not doing it all the time. Remember quantity and quality do not always go together. Sometimes what people need is a friendly ear. Being the person who listens to other people can be incredibly important.
Cultivate the attitude of saying things only when you feel they’reimportant to say. People will be more likely to listen to you if they know that you talk about interesting subjects.
Know when not to talk. You don’t need to talk to everyone. You don’t need to talk all the time. There are lots of times and places when people are more or less receptive to conversation and hearing you. Knowing which places are good for that will make you feel more heard in the long run.
For example: someone taking a long red-eye flight is probably going to be less receptive to your conversation than someone you’re standing in a long line to a concert you both enjoy.
Likewise, that person who is wearing their headphones and staring out the bus window? Yeah, they’re probably not looking to hear about all your new business selling used Ferrari automobiles.
Let people know when all you want is to vent. There are times in everyone’s life when all they need is a sympathetic listening ear while they vent about some injustice. Now some people, especially guys, are more interested in offering solutions than listening to you complain.
A lot of people are happy to commiserate or listen if they know that’s all you need from them. If they think they need to offer solutions, they’re going to be a little shorter with you and possibly less likely to listen.
Also, choose your audience. Your brother might not be the best person to complain to about your boyfriend, but your best friend might be.
Learn to listen. One of the keys to being heard, is to know how to listen. Not only will this help you find people who are more likely to truly listen, people who know they’re being heard are more inclined to listen to you. Put away your cell phone, or iPod when you’re talking with someone. Don’t look around the room.
If you miss something they say ask them to repeat it.
Remember that being louder doesn’t equal being heard. In fact, the louder you get the more likely you are to turn people off who might otherwise have listened to you.
If you’re shy, just try to imagine them in their underwear! It may be silly, but a lot of people use this to speak up.
Remember that no one owes your their time or their attention, not even that poor salesperson. If you feel like no one is listening to you, you might consider what it is that you have to say.
How to Exercise an Open Mind
How to Speak Clearly
Sources and Citations
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