Have you ever been talking to someone and realized they aren’t listening to you?
What do you do in that situation? Some of us might stop and ask what’s wrong, while others might simply ignore their lack of attention and just keep talking at them.
Talking too much, however, is one of the main reasons people shut down. People don’t want to hear long-winded stories that are weakly linked to what the conversation is about. They also don’t want 45 minutes of chat about the minute details of your life.
So how do you tell if someone is really listening to you? Consider your reactions when someone else is talking. What do you do when you’re listening closely to a story? You probably keep eye contact with that person. You might even chime in to show you agree or disagree with what’s being said. By asking questions, you show that person that you are processing what is being said. If you can notice this in yourself, you will be able to recognize when someone is truly engaged with you when you are talking.
Here are a few ways you can make sure your voice is being heard:
Emotionally Engage with the Person
Motivational speaker and salesman, Zig Ziglar explains how “logic makes people think, and emotions make people act.” A lot of people in governing positions are very good at bombarding you with statistics and facts, but how often do these facts evoke emotion in us and leave us pondering over what was said? Not often.
People engage more in what you are saying when you speak about emotional experiences. Strangers connect with speakers that express emotion because of empathy. For example, if you talk passionately about your love of animals, and why you’re a vegetarian, people are more likely to change the way they live their own lives.
We connect to people not through thoughts, but through feelings. How often do people’s ears perk up if they hear their name or think someone is talking about them? People engage when the conversation is about them, and the opinions people have on them. This is because you directly connect to the conversation, and it has high emotional stakes for you. Hence why people frequently remember things said about them years ago.
As they say, “eyes are the windows to the soul“. Keeping eye contact is vital in engaging with people. It shows you are confidant in what you are saying, which helps to portray the importance behind your words. It also means you are aware if people are drifting off from the conversation.
The initial thought process of the person listening is going to be visual- rather than verbal. If you give a talk to an audience, you need to take the first few moments to look at your audience. You gain command of an audience through your body posture well before you start talking. This is because you communicate most effectively through body language. This will engage your audience from the onset, and give you a supportive platform for when you start talking.
Jim Taylor, an academic who specializes in psychology of business, sport, and parenting, discusses in Psychology Today how multitasking “is a myth that has been promulgated by the ‘technological-industrial complex’ to make overly scheduled and stressed-out people feel productive and efficient.” That when you multitask you are actually just doing several activities in quick succession – not simultaneously – meaning a lower quality in work, than if you just took the time to do each task individually.
Keeping this in mind, if you’re trying to tell someone about a personal story, an important event coming up, or some information that it’s vital they hear, but they’re reading their emails at the same time- it’s likely that they aren’t taking in much of what you’re saying- even if they say they are. In this case, it’s best to politely say “would you like me come back later?” This will usually results in that person stopping their other activities and engaging completely with what you’re saying.
Likewise, don’t start an in-depth conversation if there’s a lot of background noise where you are. Avoid places with loud music when looking to make a point. Ditto for having conversations on busy streets. Not only will others not be able to hear you, they may become easily distracted by outside factors. Always remember, sometimes people don’t fully listen due to external distractions.