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Getting people to listen, listen, listen

 | February 3, 2013

Getting people to listen to you has always been in demand. Demanding someone to listen to you has never been in demand.


We recently witnessed the great duel between KS Bawani and Sharifah Zohra Jabeen. The keyword that was very significant was the repeated word that had made Sharifah so targeted and famous.

Well, I am going to bring your attention to another view where “Listen, Listen, Listen” had been used quite a lot.

Ask any growing teenager and they will tell you that their parents have used such “listen” (maybe not that many times) to get their attention about something they wanted to say.

Listen, Listen, listen is really not rare. Many people have used it, including myself when I wanted to grab someone’s attention or be assertive to butt in and request the undivided attention of that person to listen to what we had to speak.

Once again, this article has no reference or explanation to the Bawani and Sharifah incident. Getting people to listen to you has always been in demand. Demanding someone to listen to you has never been in demand.

I train companies on effective communication at work and one of the key components for good rapport and clarity in communication is listening skills. When a person speaks, whether to an individual or a large audience, the challenge is always to keep them in contact, attentive, listening and responding as needed.

Whether, you are a parent, at work or with your sweetheart, listening and getting them to listen creates harmonious communication. Even as a hypnotherapist, my key pre-hypnotic suggestion is always, “Listen to me carefully and follow my instructions carefully and you will be surprised as to how easily and quickly you go into deep hypnosis”. Getting clients to listen determines the success of my hypnotherapy.

Ever feel as if you’re speaking with the mute button on? Here’s how to get people to listen.

Some people, it seems, could command attention while reciting a list of engine spare parts; others are ignored no matter what they have to say.

“There’s a whole skill set involved in being heard,” says John Gray, PhD, author of ‘Why Mars and Venus Collide’. It all starts with noticing how others are reacting to you. Let me share with you some scenarios and pointers how you can get them to listen to you better.

Getting them to listen

Learn to engage with a better question.

When you’re trying to be helpful, do others avoid making eye contact with you? Do they interrupt or show little interest in your point of view? You may be coming across as a know-it-all, or your advice could sound like criticism, eventually people may stop listening to your ideas altogether.

Next time you have a suggestion, try asking, “Would you like to know what I think?” Or “I have a different perspective—would you like to hear it?”

Learn to engage and interact with their preferred communication modality. While you’re talking, do people check their iPhone or make you feel like you’re wasting their time? You may be losing your audience due to a discrepancy in how the interact to you in their primary sensors.

This is a topic discussed in NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques. Some people respond to emotion and storytelling, while others need you to get to the point.

Note how fast the other person speaks and try to match their speed: If you talk too slowly to a fast-paced communicator, his mind may wander; if you talk too rapidly to a slower-paced person, he may feel flustered and tune out.

In NLP we call it “mirror, match, pace and eventually lead” in building rapport and effective sensory communication with any person.

To ensure, what we are communicating to them, we must become aware and attentive to what modalities they listen, absorb information and interact best.

Majority people are visual, so show them rather than talk; the there are those who rather listen to what you have to say, so make sure you have a good vocal variety as you speak ‘interestingly’ to them; and finally, the Kinestatic types who are very ‘touch and feel’, so make sure you have a good emotion, empathy, heartfelt approach in getting them to ‘feel’ your communication.

Tell them you need their ears for a moment

Do friends drift off while you’re pouring your heart out? Many women like to commiserate i.e. talking about their problems not in order to fix them but simply to share them as a way to reduce stress. But some people especially men might hear such talk as a burdensome request for help.

You need to let people know that you just want to vent for a few minutes about what’s going on,”

Most women always want man to “Listen”. What they mainly want them to tell him that he doesn’t have to say or do anything about it.

That releases him from assuming that he must offer a solution. Here is a great tip for men when you listen to a woman speak. Keep good pleasant eye contact and interest in what she says.

Acknowledge her with agreeing sounds like “mmm”, “yeah” and “really’ or “what then”.

Never offer to give a solution unless she asks it. Very soon, she is going to enjoying your company and feels comfortable with you.

Show interest to them

No matter what, you can’t go wrong by showing interest in what other people say and making them feel important.

In other words, the better you listen, the more you’ll be listened to. When you truly listen to someone i.e. when you offer them your undivided focus, summarize their main points to make sure you’re tracking, ask curiosity-based questions to find out more; then you’re demonstrating openness and respect in a powerful way.

Most people automatically want to hear what someone who seems interested in them might have to say.

Whenever you feel like someone isn’t listening to you, try really listening to him or her first, and then see what happens.

It doesn’t always work (some people are truly self-involved), but it usually does.  This is a note to parents that this often has good results even with teenagers.

Achieve more by speaking less

I was facilitating a communication training a few years ago for some staff in a company, most of whom were quite talkative, and at the same time quite good listeners.

There was one guy, though, he would start talking, and within a minute or two, people’s attention would drift. I found I kept interrupting him (respectfully), trying to summarize for him, and he’d simply go off in another direction.

It was really chewing up the group’s time, and breaking their focus.

I pulled him aside at the coffee break, and told him I thought he had important points to make, but that people were having a hard time listening to him.

“That always happens to me!” he exclaimed. “People don’t understand me, so I try to explain more.”

“Try to explain less,” I advised. He looked puzzled.

“When you say something complex and people aren’t getting it, it’s not going to help, generally, to say additional complex stuff.  Before you start talking, take a minute to think about how to communicate the essence of your message in a simple way.”

Happily, he made a real effort to follow my advice, and people were better able to listen to him.

Observe and read the room

If you’re talking to someone or to a group, and they’re not giving you their attention (surreptitiously looking at their phones, doodling, looking out the window, writing emails), they’re not listening to you.

Just like above, you talking more is probably not going to help.  Stop talking.  Ask a question; find out what they’re interested in hearing.

Even if you’re the most compelling speaker in the world, people won’t listen to you if they’re not interested in your topic.

The depth of your passion for ‘air plants’ is not going to engage your vegan friends no matter how interesting you sound. I don’t care how articulate you are.

To boil it down: if you want people to listen to you, first listen to them. And when you do talk, focus on topics they find interesting, and paint a vivid picture – use clear, compelling words and images.

Simple advice but simple doesn’t mean easy. I’d love to hear experiences you’ve had in trying to get people to listen to you.  What’s worked for you and what hasn’t? So seek to listen.

Julian Leicesteris a London-trained subconscious specialist. He is Malaysia’s most renowned clinical hypnotherapist, media personality, columnist, event host and book author. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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