Why Don't They Listen?

On a scale of one to ten, how much do you love being told? Whether you are eight, eighteen, eighty or anywhere in between, chances are, you don’t like to be told.
To get people to listen you need their attention. To get their attention you need to engage in a conversation. Unfortunately many leaders (and spouses, and parents…) communicate in such a way that they appear to be telling not conversing. So people hear what is being said without really listening.
If you want someone to listen to you, here are some critical tips:

  • Who – Begin with the listener. What matters to him or her? Many times the starting point is the message and what you want to tell. We did focus groups with front line employees at an organization who told us that they really didn’t want emails about the six figure executives being hired. The message wasn’t made relevant to them so the emails were ignored or trashed.
  • Why – Set the context. What is the listener supposed to do with the information? If the listener understands that they are going to give input, apply what you tell them or have to share the information with someone else they will listen differently.
  • You – Focus on the listener. Create an opportunity for some type of interaction with the listener. If you don’t hear from the listener, then you are telling not conversing. You can ask for validation of understanding or confirmation of next steps. Get the listener to participate to ensure that they are listening.
  • The End – Determine what needs accomplished. If you plan for a good outcome or are clear about what the ending looks like then you are better prepared to be listened to! Too many conversations wander or leave the listener wondering, “what was the point?”

There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.
― G.K. Chesterton
Listening requires understanding which requires attention. You can’t make anyone listen to you. They may hear you but they decide whether or not they will listen for understanding. Give them a reason to listen by engaging them where they are at, setting context, focusing on the result and involving them. Remember, “Who, Why, You…the end.”
To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
— Deborah Tannen Author and Professor of Linguistics Georgetown University

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