5 Ways to Get Others to Listen to You
Last month’s MCM on “anger” sparked requests for “How do I to get others to listen better to me? One reader summed it up perfectly: “Not being heard makes me angry!” The not-so-great news is that if you want to be heard, it will have to start with you. The good news is that we can do simple things to encourage people to listen better to us. Listening becomes reciprocal…eventually. If you’ve ever been heard wholeheartedly by someone, your tendency to ‘give back’ and listen to them was easier. Changing the non-listener’s behavior may take a few days or weeks to sink in, but if you are consistent, even in small ways, you will notice shades of better listening emerging over time. Understand, though, that you have some stiff competition – your non-listener’s draw to social media, gripping TV series, and/or their mental health roadblocks. Consider trying out a couple of the steps below and watch reciprocity kick in:
1) When the non-listener is talking to you, offer attentive silence. By this, I do not mean “the silent treatment.” That is abusive silence. Let them talk, vent and spew. Forget yourself; listen with curiosity. Watch them. What are they telling you? Frustration, defensiveness, disappointment, what? Your goal is to try to understand them and why they are talking. They may not show it, but they are somewhat grateful for the chance to fully express themselves.
2) Be patient through the hurtful words (the surface message) knowing that the root of their complaint/concern is not far away. When one is emotional their word choices are not the best. After you think they’ve finished, allow about 10 seconds and ask, “Is there anything else?” When it’s your turn to talk they will be more apt to give you air time.
3) Tell back in your own words how you understood what they said, i.e. “So you are saying that….” Telling back shows the non-listener that you got their message, even if you disagree, and that you are able to move to problem solving mode. They will feel surprised and grateful to know that you put your agenda aside to take their concerns seriously.
4) When your non-listener is watching their favorite TV program or engrossed in some other desirable activity, signal that you will give them a few minutes to transition to listening to you. Indicate that it’s important that they hear you. People tune out when you do not respect their interest or when everything with you is urgent. Use a gentle voice, a touch on the shoulder vs. yelling or shaking. They may let you enjoy a few more minutes of your quiet time when they have something pressing to discuss.
5) Reinforce him or her when they listen better to you. Let them know how you appreciate it. Thanking someone for a positive behavior, no matter how small, increases the chances of that action happening again.