Have you ever been speaking to someone who clearly wasn’t listening?
Or maybe they appeared to be listening, and then later did the opposite of what you had talked about?
Or maybe you’ve been speaking to a group, and noticed your audience disengaging, talking amongst themselves, or playing on their phones.
We’ve ALL experienced this at some point. And it can feel frustrating, disrespectful, annoying and upsetting.
In last week’s podcast I shared why being a good listener is so powerful – one of the reasons is it builds rapport, respect and relationships. NOT listening can have an equally powerful effect – in the opposite way. It can RUIN relationships.
And yes, you can do everything you can to develop the skill of listening, but what can you do about people who don’t listen to YOU?
And that is what this episode is all about. You’re going to discover 8 reasons WHY others may not be listening to you, and you’ll walk away with powerful techniques for how to fix it.
8 Reasons Why People Don’t Listen To You
1. You’re not listening to THEM
Communication is a two way street – if you want people to listen to you, start by being a great listener yourself.
Why? When others feel understood and heard, they will like and trust you more, the relationship will be a in a better place, and as a result, they will be much more open to hearing what you have to say.
2. You don’t believe you deserve to be heard
This is a powerful mindset shift you need to make. If you DON’T believe you deserve to be heard, it comes across in the way you speak and how you physically present yourself.
You may speak quietly, or hunch your shoulders, or appear nervous. Whether consciously or unconsciously, your audience will pick up on this. To an audience – if the speaker doesn’t believe she deserves to be heard, why would they bother listening to her?
I do a lot of work with my clients to help them to shift their mindset. And this one is key: shifting from “My ideas aren’t valuable, I don’t deserve to be heard” to “I DO have good ideas that deserve to be heard. In fact, I am doing my team a disservice if I don’t share them!”
Try this yourself – it makes a big impact.
3. You’re ignoring your audience and their needs
I hate to break it to you, but when you get up to speak, the audience isn’t thinking about you. Nope. All they are thinking is about themselves, and asking the question: “What’s in it for me?”
If you want your audience to sit up, pay attention and listen (whether you’re talking to one person or one hundred people), you MUST address their needs.
What does this look like? Sharing with your audience UPFRONT what RESULT they are going to get from listening to you, as well as why it is important they listen. If you launch into the content without addressing WHY first, I can guarantee that most of your audience will tune out and start wondering what they’re going to have for lunch.
4. People can’t hear you
Sounds simple, right? If it’s too hard to hear you, people will tune out. I’ve experienced this at networking meetings where someone will be introduced to speak, and they will start talking while people are still applauding, or while the sounds of chairs moving or general noise is still present.
As starting your presentation strong is critical to your overall impact as a speaker, it’s important you wait for complete silence and ensure you have everyone’s attention before you open your mouth to speak.
If, during your presentation there is a loud noise or a distraction, don’t be afraid to pause and wait for the noise to finish. If possible, don’t attempt to talk louder over the noise – this just makes it harder for the audience.
5. Your audience is distracted
Observe your audience (again, this can be an audience of 1 or 100). Look for visual clues they aren’t listening – such as eyes darting around, looking down, or shifting in their seats.
Instead of ignoring it and powering through your presentation (or, hurriedly trying to finish quickly), stay calm and call them out. You don’t have to be rude about it – be friendly and ask “Is everything OK? Do you have something you need to attend to?” This can work really well in 1 on 1 or small group situations.
Give them an opportunity to deal with the distraction first – when this is taken care of, they will be in a much better place to listen to you.
For larger groups, see tip 6 below 🙂
6. They have heard you through their own filter
We all have different ways of viewing the world, and different ways of hearing messages. For example, one person’s “I gave constructive feedback” is another person’s “She gave me a verbal bashing!”
When you’re explaining something, it can be very useful to ask your conversation buddy to repeat back what they understand the message or next steps to be. For example: “So, John, I know we’ve covered quite a lot in this conversation. Would you mind repeating back what you understand the task to be?”
Then, when John repeats it back, you can agree or gently correct where there may have been a misunderstanding. Don’t just say “Does that make sense?” – most people will just nod and say “Yep!” even if they don’t understand.
7. You haven’t checked in with them
Have you ever had a conversation whether the other person talks the whole time and doesn’t ask you any questions? I have, and it prompts me to remind myself to never speak to them ever again.
I don’t care how big your audience is, communication is a two way street. You MUST check in with them and ask them questions to keep them engaged.
When I MC events, I am constantly checking in with the audience. I ask “Are we ready for our next speaker? Yes or no?” And I’ll wait until I get a loud “YES” in unison. If I get a lukewarm response, I say “I need a verbal confirmation from you. Yes or no?” Eventually, they all shout YES.
You can do this on video calls – ask your participant for a ‘thumbs up’ or a wave – do whatever you can to keep them engaged. Right now, I’ve been using the Auslan sign for applause (see below) – it looks great on a video call!
Listen to the podcast to hear the 8th reason why people don’t listen to you!