I’m sure you’ve been there. Mid-conversation, when you realize that you didn’t actually hear the last few sentences the person in front of you just said. You are also kidding yourself if you think nobody has ever trailed off into deep internal thought while you were sharing your heart.
The frightening thing is that this happens in all types of settings. Nobody is exempt. You could be in a business meeting, conversation with your spouse, a developmental conversation with a team member, or even sharing your hopes and dreams with somebody you care about. So what can you do to make sure that you are being heard in a world full of distractions?
Here are a few pitfalls you might be falling into and how to fix them.
1.You’re not listening.
You’re probably thinking, “But wait, I thought this was about people listening to me?” Sure it is, but there are some preliminary steps to being successful here.
Have you ever been in a group setting where people are having dialogue about a particular topic and people are fired up and then somebody references something you once said to them that resonated and had impact? Then you had that moment inside of you where you were like, “Yes! I said something right! And somebody actually heard me!”
Or how about being in a one on one conversation and the person you are talking to, repeats back to you something that you had mentioned earlier in your discussion? Apparently they were gasp actually listening to you.
Don’t those moments feel incredible? There is tremendous power in being heard. In a way, to be heard is to be known. It’s to be cared for. Every human wants that, if they say otherwise, they are lying.
If you want others to hear you out, make sure you are reciprocating. When they feel you have taken the time and the care to listen, what you have to offer will have more weight.
2.You’re talking about yourself too much.
I know your Mommy told you that you are special and you are…to her. The truth is, most people are interested in themselves, even when it sounds like it’s about you.
A few years ago I got a promotion I had been working very hard to get. After my promotion, a lot of people approached me and asked me “What did you do to get promoted?” And regretfully, looking back on that season…I talked about myself. A lot. The truth is, what they were actually asking me was, “What do I need to do to get promoted?” Which would have completely changed the dialogue had I caught on to this early enough.
If we are doing step 1, and truly listening, then we will be better at answering the right question. Regardless of how it is asked. When you are giving answers that are actually relevant and applicable, the person in front of you will be more likely to listen.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says “So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”
3.There is too much noise.
With the creation of the internet, a lot of industries have completely changed how they connect with people. This has been both good and bad. When I was melting faces off in my younger days while in my band, we had to network like crazy to get our music out there. The internet was just beginning to be in everyone’s household. Within a few years, there was so much music available on the internet because anybody could upload and share it. That also meant there was a lot of garbage out there. One, now, has to sift through tons and tons of music to find something that is appealing or different and that you might actually enjoy.
Music is just one realm of noise contribution. There is so much noise to sift through on a day to day basis as it is. If others are doing something similar, do something different. Make sure your message stands out enough to cut through the noise.
4.You are not simplifying enough.
If you give your team or others an exhaustive “How to” list with bullet points and sub points, it’s too complicated. The longer your message, the more likely your listener will lose interest. Have a clear “What, Why and How.” The least amount of words you use to communicate, the better. Yes, use less words.
Here’s why. Have you ever had that person around who never talks and then one day they open their mouth and say something really profound? Had another person blabbing, thrown out that same statement in the middle of their ongoing speech, would it have landed with the same impact? The fewer words we use, the more impact each one will have. Be simple. Be intentional. This will give your words weight.
5.You’re not relevant.
I’m sure you’ve seen a commercial where they go on and on about being family owned and share how their grandfather started the business? And then you ask yourself, “Is your Grandfather coming to fix my toilet when I need a plumber?”
Going back to step 2, it is not about you, but the listener. Nobody wants to hear about how long your company has been family owned. They want to know if you can address their need and fix their problem.
If you are one who goes off on tangents and bunny trails, it’s too much work to follow you. You will lose people. Stay on topic. Stay relevant.
Avoiding these common pitfalls will allow your listeners to remain engaged and truly hear your message.
Which pitfalls are most common to you? What will you try to keep your listeners engaged? Do you have a relevant story to share that others might learn from? Feel free to share in the comments.