How can I get people to listen to me?

by Sam on June 1, 2010

One-Minute Answer:  Say something worth listening to!


Seriously, YOU are the main reason for any lack of attention people pay when you speak. Could they also be poor listeners? Of course! But you and I have the ability to grab their ears better than we do.


Consider this.


Your current style of speaking is perfectly fashioned to get the impact you have on others with your words!


Please reread the statement above. You may have immediately sensed what it means. If not, recall the popular definition of insanity: Continuing to do the same thing, expecting different results.


In my own life and in the lives of the managers I work with, I conclude that misunderstanding or inattention is 95% within the control of the speaker. Take charge of your conversations!


Summer Schedule

Starting next Wednesday we’ll appear every other week throughout the vacation season. The first Wednesday you won’t see us is June 16. The last week we’ll miss is August 25. Enjoy your summer!



Five-Minute Answer:  Get the utmost value out of this advice. Before reading any further, choose someone with whom you want better results—a listener from whom you want greater attention and improved understanding. As you read, stop at the first action that convicts your communication style with him or her. Commit to a new approach for a week before coming back to this list for more.


1.   Ask questions and listen to them first.  Create good listeners by giving them the opportunity to talk about themselves. The more they share feelings, values, attitudes, aspirations, prejudices, beliefs, likes, dislikes, and opinions with you, the better they’ll feel toward you and therefore about listening to you. You’ll also learn so much about them that you can use in the next steps.

2.   Craft the conversation to listener interests.  As much as possible present topics that you know from listening to them will grab their attention and maybe even excite them. Where you have feelings, values, and beliefs in common, point to those.

3.   Don’t clash with their communication style.  Take care not to allow your vocabulary, tone of voice, or body language to be glaringly inconsistent with theirs. Reflect some of their own word choice; match their volume; don’t stand while they sit or incline back when they lean forward.

4.   Look them in the eye.  When you allow distractions to attract your eyes away from listeners’ eyes for more than a few seconds, you lose them. The other extreme of a riveting stare may not be good either, but wandering eyes speak negative volumes while in conversation.

5.   Begin at the end.  All communication—except that which occurs at a water cooler or at a lunch table—is aimed at changing others. You want them to think, feel, speak, or act differently than they do before you open your mouth. Recognize what that goal is. Visualize how that end will look in your listener and work backwards, crafting your communication to paint that picture.

6.   Examine your heart before you open your mouth.  Admit to yourself how you feel about the person whose ear you’re about to bend. If those feelings are in any way negative, you won’t succeed in masking that disapproval with your words no matter how hard you try. Your tone and your body language, over which you don’t have much control, will reveal the negativity in your heart. Unless you want it to be revealed, get your heart right before you speak.

7.   Speak with a “you” flavor.  Put listeners in your messages. Use the first person (I, me, my, mine) sparingly. Rather than saying something like, “The point I want to make is…” just say what was going to appear directly after that phrase. And “Is your concern addressed by that news?” is better than “Have I convinced you by the news I’ve revealed?”

8.   Avoid accusations.  When you ascribe intent to others, (“I know why you…”) the only two possible results are both bad. You can be wrong and reek of poor judgment, or you can be right and catch people in the act—something that will anger them. So, let the comments following your second person pronouns be either nonjudgmental or complimentary.

9.   Pick the right time.  The best opportunity to speak with someone is when they want to hear from you. Too many of us send messages in business and in personal relationships when we want to rid ourselves of those messages. When listeners feel the need to learn what you are saying they will embrace your words. You can lead a horse to water and make him drink, but only if the horse is thirsty.

10.  Pick the right place.  As I planned my proposal of marriage to Dianne I puzzled, “Where should I offer her the ring?” The first place rejected was a bus. That just didn’t seem to be the right place for the message I hoped she would hear. All right; so I exaggerated a bit and a bus really didn’t come to mind. But we should plan the location of crucial conversations carefully, choosing environments that will reinforce and not to detract from the desired impact. For example: your office, their office, or a conference room?

11.  Overcome obstacles.  An inappropriate location is one example of the “noise” that can be a barrier to understanding. Add to the list anything else that may distract listeners. Those may be in them (e.g., anger), in the environment (e.g., visual distractions), or in you (e.g., garish clothing). Countless examples abound. What steps will you take to keep noise from erecting walls to understanding?

12.  Use the preferred channel of listeners.  Some of my friends respond immediately to text messages. A certain colleague won’t play phone tag, but stays on top of his email. An executive I know answers his own telephone; for others, my calls invariably go into voice mail. A past client wanted to see me in his office for anything of importance; others prefer a less personal exchange. In each of these cases, I strive to resist defaulting to my favored communication channel.


Enough Said:  “If people around you will not hear you, fall down before them and beg their forgiveness, for in truth you are to blame.”  ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Next Week:  Do you mentor anyone? Chances are the answer is “yes.” The question next Wednesday will be, “How can I be a great mentor?” The answers stand to make you even more capable than you now of serving those in your life who look to you for counsel and guidance.

{ 1 trackback }

What personal development should I pursue? | Ask Sam Deep
10.05.10 at 5:23 pm

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Auito 06.03.10 at 9:45 am

This is dead on advice. Thanks for the reminders Sam.

harden insurance 09.24.10 at 7:45 am

I need to hear exactly what Carly will do about this..

-Sincere Regards

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