By Deepak Chopra MD
To be effective at work or in your home, you have to be listened to. Children gain their sense of self-worth by being taken seriously, and this involves, first and foremost, paying attention to what they're saying. As adults, the need is almost as great. If you can't hold someone else's attention, they will discount your opinions and suggestions--in the worst case, they will discount you.
So if you find yourself not being listened to, what's the reason? This isn’t a blame game. It's not that you are doing something wrong or the other person is at fault. Instead, there's a communication problem, and communication is a two-way street. With that in mind, here are seven reasons that others aren't listening to you.
1. You lost them early on. As simple as this sounds, it's the number one reason people stop listening. They missed the point early on, a stitch was dropped, and so they tune out.
2. They're distracted. Something else is claiming their attention while you are trying to get it.
3. They're not interested but don't have a nice way of telling you so.
4. They are forced to listen to so many people that they tune out automatically.
5. You've touched a nerve. The other person has private beliefs that you've encroached upon.
6. Wrong timing. You've entered the situation at a time when the other person isn't prepared to listen.
7. You're trying too hard, putting stress on the other person. Stress causes everyone to stop listening.
All of these things can be corrected by looking and listening to what's actually happening in a situation. In the last LinkedIn post I discussed how to develop the skill of paying attention, which is essential if you want any situation to go your way. Here we can accomplish a single goal--getting someone else to listen to you--by reversing the things that make them tune out.
To really be listened to:1. Don't overload your argument or position. Reduce it to one point. Make sure you are satisfied with this one point, and state if clearly, then wait. Look for signs that the other person heard you. If you observe that they aren't following you, stop and say, "What do you think?".
At all costs, don't lose your audience by trying to make so many points that they tune out after the first one or two.
2. Choose a time and place when the other person isn't distracted. Sometimes this isn't easy, because office life bombards everyone with constant distractions. If you can, either make an appointment or say, "What's a good time?" Don't say, "Is this a good time?" because most people will be polite and say yes when they don't mean it. Under those circumstances, you won't be listened to.
3. Talk to interested people. Trying to cold call on someone who isn't receptive will only demoralize you. Even if you push past their indifference, they will resent you for intruding. The best approach is to ask if they are interested. You'll get some no's, but at least the exchange will be honest. Also, inquire privately to see if someone is interested by asking friends and colleagues.
4. Many very busy people have learned to fake listening because of the constant demand on their time. Don't join the line of those who will not be listened to. Instead, have someone who actually has this person's ear provide an entree. To get Mr. Big to listen to you, you must first get to the people he already listens to.
5. It's always embarrassing if you unwittingly touch a nerve in your listener. If you see that it's happened, apologize and leave. Don't try to back and fill. It won't work.
6. If you have come at a bad time and didn't know it, back out immediately. Don't say, "This will only take a second." People stop listening when they hear this. Ask to re-schedule later, not on the spot.
7. Don't try too hard. Even if you push hard enough to get your way, you will be resented. This sets you up for being shut out later. The secret here is to establish rapport. Be personable and sincere. Everyone can tell when they are being softened up, so don't do that. You have established rapport when the other person smiles, uncrosses his arms, meets your gaze, and looks relaxed.
I hope these points open your eyes to the value of knowing how to get other people's attention. This is such an important topic that we'll continue it in the next post.