Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How To Get People To Listen to YOU

What is the secret of ensuring people listen to you?

This article contains one simple message. Here it is:

People pay attention to a good listener.

‘Meta-language’ is when a person says one thing, and means something totally different. When someone is not listening, or doesn’t intend to do what you are suggesting, they involuntarily send out signals. Once you have learned how to spot these clues, you can regain their attention, or address their lack of conviction. In this article John will show you how to identify this behaviour and tell you what you can do about it.

Many of the clues lie in your own behaviour as a listener. Learn to scrutinise how you listen; in improving yourself you will become more responsive and persuasive to those who must listen to you.

This article will show you how to be a better listener.

But - if you’re still not sure whether you need to read further, ask yourself a couple of important questions:

Do you sometimes feel that you are not very good at persuading people – or that you may not even be heard?

Would you be prepared to invest an hour of your time, if you knew it would help to make you more influential and effective?

Tip One:

Become a better listener

Work on your own listening skills and you will gain far more from your communication with other people. Learn to spot the meta-language people use when they don’t mean what they are saying. Listen actively.

Borrow the tricks of the professional listeners’ trade

If appropriate say, ‘I agree with you’. Raise your eyebrows now and then. Give little nods. Echo what the other person says.

Ask short probing questions using what, why, when, how and where

Short questions should lead to long revealing answers.

Look for clues to meta-language

When people don’t really believe what they are saying – in other words, when they are being less than honest – their hands move to cover their mouths. More clues will be revealed in Tip Seven.

Retrieve the situation

When you spot meta-language going on, gently challenge what’s being said to you. Check that the person understands what you are saying to them.

Tip Two:

Find out what you are doing that loses people’s attention

When a person appears not to listen to you, it may be that you are ‘talking at’ him or her in some way.

Ensure you cannot be accused of any of these:

Being boring

Practise putting rise-and-fall into your voice. Use short sentences and pauses to break up your message. Introduce humour if you can.

Using jargon

We all use long or obscure words, with people who specialise in a similar field to ours. It’s important to remember what the jargon means, and to use plainer words with people outside that group.

Not noticing when your listener’s attention wanders

Are you maintaining eye contact with everyone to whom you are speaking? Are they nodding and echoing back what you are saying? If you don’t notice when you’ve lost someone, you cannot bring them back.

Tip Three:

Reasons for not listening Number 1 - Embarrassment

It is surprisingly easy to embarrass a person. People who are embarrassed are not listening any more. They are more concerned with their own panicky thoughts and hope you won’t notice their red face.

Look for the clues

We all know the signs: a flushed face, perhaps a red rash on the throat and ears. Look out for sudden loss of eye contact or evidence of sweaty hands and a dry mouth.

Quickly review what you’ve just said

Perhaps you are expecting too much from the other person and he or she is ashamed not to be able to understand you. Go over the ground again more slowly, or use different language. Becoming cross will only make things worse, so keep calm.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Be careful not to draw attention to the embarrassment itself: it is only a clue to internal turmoil. Work gently around it until the meta-language dies down and the person is listening properly to you once more.

Tip Four:

Reasons for not listening Number 2 - Shock

Whether you have good or bad news to share, be careful of triggering a shocked reaction.

When people look shocked, they are not listening

You may not realise you’re at risk of causing a shocked reaction. It depends what the person was expecting you to say. Watch his or her face for that wide-eyed, frozen, open-mouthed expression.

Let the shock subside

Like an embarrassed person, a shocked person is listening more to the frantic voice inside his or her own head than to what you are saying. Talk about less threatening aspects while you wait for him or her to calm down. Then go on with the more detailed information, taking it more gently this time.

Tip Five:

Reasons for not listening Number 3 – Being Unconvinced

Someone who is unconvinced by what you are saying will find that his or her attention wanders.

Look for the clues

The classic meta-language clue to this is ‘cotton-picking’, when a person picks at imaginary fluff on their clothing or dabs at apparently perfect makeup.

Quickly review what you’ve just said

Can you identify the point at which your audience slipped away from you? Go back and re-state that same point in a different way. Listen actively while you are talking. Get that person back on your side before moving on.

Tip Six:

Reasons for not listening Number 4 - Confusion

There are people who earn a living by confusing people on purpose. They are called politicians. However, it can be easy to confuse people by mistake. A confused person will not admit to his lack of comprehension, and will not dare to ask you for clarification afterwards.

Check for understanding

Instead of asking whether a person understands what you have just said, make a comment that requires an informed reply. If he doesn’t or can’t give the answer you expected, he may have become confused. Go over the facts again in a different way.

Use empathy to reduce the tension

Saying, ’I don’t know about you, but even I found this idea confusing when I was new to it,’ should bring the person’s focus back to you. Then you can rephrase your message in a clearer way.

Tip Seven:

Spot the liar

People who are not listening, or who don’t understanding you clearly, display similar meta-language clues to people who are lying. This does not mean they are liars. It merely suggests you are not getting through. Here are the clues:

Covering the mouth

A person trying to give the false impression of understanding or agreeing with you will nervously touch or cover their mouth.

Averting the eyes

Often a man will look down, and if he wears glasses will remove them.

Cotton-picking and other fussing

Sometimes a woman will fuss with her nails or skirt, or pick fluff from her collar.

Nose and eye touching

The more a person tends to touch their nose, the more likely it is that he or she is telling lies. Women are especially prone to eye-touching when lying.

Tip Eight:

Be alert to selective hearing

A person may not show any outward signs of not listening attentively and yet he is still editing out important parts of what you are saying. Believe it or not, we all tend to hear half of what is being said. We listen to only half of that, and we remember half of that. This is normal behaviour, especially when you remember how busy we all are.

Slow down

Research shows that people can listen three times more quickly than they can talk. But it’s tiring. When you are making someone work that hard, listening to you, it is natural for them to take some ‘down time’. They will think about something else for a moment. During that moment they do not hear what you’re saying.

Beware of bombshells

Sometimes an emotive word will be the only thing a person hears out of what you are saying. This is catastrophic if what he or she remembers afterwards is the opposite of what you meant. For example, you might be reassuring, ‘. . there will be no redundancies.’ or, ‘. . I’m not leaving you.’ or, ‘. . you don’t look fat at all in that’ - and all your listener remembers is redundancies, leaving me, I look fat.

Tip Nine:

Use language positively

Your choice of language can make all the difference to the meaning you convey. When the magician says, ‘Don’t imagine a blue daisy,’ you can’t help imagining that unusual flower. When a friend says, ‘Don’t worry,’ that’s exactly what you do. Saying, ‘Picture a red rose,’ or ‘Think how happy you’ll be when it’s over,’ has the opposite effect. Positive language is powerful talk.

Don’t say don’t

When you tell a child not to step in a puddle, you give it the idea of stepping in the puddle. It might not even have noticed that puddle before you mentioned it. When you want people to hear an important point you are making, make that element the focus of what you are saying. Not the opposite.

Be honest and look out for honesty in others

There are verbal clues that denote a lack of honesty. ‘By the way . .’ signals the real reason for your conversation. ‘With all due respect .’ means someone is about to insult you. ‘I’m not racist but . .’ heralds a racist comment. Look out for words that contradict what has just been said or is said next.

Tip Ten:

Think like JFK

American President John F Kennedy had the ability to walk into a room, start chatting to any person there, and within 30 seconds he had that individual on his side. JFK’s secret was to spot clues to which of these three senses a person most uses to take in information, and then to use the language to which he was most attuned.

‘Feeling’ people

Sometimes called ‘kinaesthetic’, these people learn by experiencing. They say things like: ‘You touched on an important point there’ or ‘I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings’.

Say to them: ‘I feel you are picking this up quickly’ or, ‘I sense this is going well’

‘Listening’ people

Also called ‘auditory’, they learn best through words. Give them a map and they’ll rewrite your directions as bullet points. They say things like: ‘I hear your anger’ or ‘Sounds as if you’re getting the idea’.

Say to them: ‘I hear what you’re saying’

‘Seeing’ people

Often described as ‘visual’, they understand the world through pictures. Their directions will come in the form of a map. They scribble diagrams to explain a point. They say things like: ‘The idea came to me in a flash’ or ‘I’m trying to picture it’.

Say to them: ‘I see where you’re coming from’

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