Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why People Aren't Listening To You (and what you can do about it)

People aren’t listening to you.

…and it’s making you crazy!

Nothing is as frustrating as feeling that our words aren’t connecting with the people that we are sharing them with. Everyone wants to be heard, whether it’s a big thought or just a random conversation. Many times, however, the people you are trying to communicate with don’t seem to be listening. It feels like you are talking to a brick wall. You find yourself repeating things over and over and squirming around to try to establish eye contact with the person you are talking to. Eventually you get frustrated and either get loud or give up (neither option leads to great success). It’s possible that the person you are trying to talk to simply has no intention of hearing you.  But, it’s also possible that you are undermining your own efforts to communicate, making it difficult for people to hear or follow what you are saying. Here are two things you may be doing to cause people to tune you out:

You Aren’t Valuing Their Time.

There are times for long meandering chats, and there are times to get straight to the point. We live in a generation that gets assaulted by thousands of messages from thousands of sources every day. Print news sources know the value of people’s time (as well as how short their attention span is) and as a result they make sure to put the most important stuff right at the beginning of their articles. They lead with the main point and then share the most important facts. This way if someone stops reading half-way through the story, they will still have gotten the most important info. So, if you try to convey to  your boss that she isn’t being fair to you by starting with the words, “You know I had this great cat when I was eight years old…”, you may lose your boss’ attention long before you deliver your message. Start with your main message and then deliver the relevant facts. If your boss seems to have more time and interest, then you may talk about the cute way that your cat used to sneeze. People tend to value your words more when you value their time.

You Aren’t Valuing Your Message

It’s possible that you grew up around some not-so-great people, whether at home, in your neighborhood, or at your school. The treatment that you received from these people may have trained you to see yourself as insignificant, so when it comes time to speak up, you believe (somewhere deep down inside of you), that what you have to share is insignificant too. So, you mumble, look at your feet, or explain your message away before you even share it (“I know I’m not the smartest person here, but…”). The things you communicate are important because you are important, even when the people around you don’t acknowledge that. So, look people in the eye and share you message honestly and clearly. If the people around you still consistently choose to not value you or your words, you may need to find some new people to be around! Remember, if you don’t value your message no one else will either.

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