No one listens to me!
Seems I get this cry once a week from clients, coworkers, peers and so forth.
Now despite the obvious overstatement (I mean, someone’s got to be listening to you) it can feel like a common occurrence.
Since much of work is bound in influencing others lets peel back the layers on this matter a little bit.
The main reasons people aren’t heard include:
- Ego In some situations people really aren’t being heard. Others, perhaps including your manager, may tune you out just because they feel like there isn’t anything they’re going to get from you that matters to them. This is called hubris and is driven from ego. As Don Miguel Ruiz told us before, take nothing personally. In other words, its not you, its me.
- Fear At times our bosses, partners and others we’re trying to influence shift from a normal stress condition to a heightened one. In a heightened state of stress people tune every extraneous thing out paying attention only to what worries them. If you want to influence people during times of high stress, help them first to move to a lowered state of concern. Only then can they hear you.
- Busy You may not be getting heard because the timing just isn’t right. Trying to reach someone who’s under a deadline, in a rush to catch a plane or trying to finish something else is pointless: of course they’re not listening to you. They’re doing something that [to them] seems more important in the moment. The question is, why are you still talking?
- Talking Perhaps the primary reason you’re not being heard is your target is too busy talking to you or preparing to. Especially in the US our tendency is to share or prepare our thoughts paying scant attention to the words coming to us from others. We can learn not to do this, but its a learned skill and as such has to be something we choose to do. Most of us don’t.
Maybe I’ll Just be Quiet
Its actually not that bad. If you look over the reasons outlined above you’ll see you can effectively address three of the four (there’s no cure for trying to reach someone whose ego won’t let them hear you.)
Of course, there’s one more thing you need to consider when asking yourself why people don’t seem to hear you.
Do You Know What You’re Talking About?
If you’ve listened to someone drone on, talk in circles or in general stumble from one point to the next you know how painful it can be. Ask yourself the hard question: is this you sometimes?
Sometimes the problem really isn’t with the other person. Sometimes its within ourselves. If you want to influence others to hear you the single most impactful thing you can do is to know what you’re talking about.
And be brief.
Are you listening to me?