How to Get People to Listen To You (15 Ways to Feel Heard)
I'm going to let you in on a secret.
I'm not a perfect person.
I've been writing about mental health every week for a long time, but I don't have all the answers.
And one of the things I struggle with is that people don't always feel heard around me.
I want to be the person that is known to be there for everyone, but this is something that my wife and I have talked about recently (I've gotten her permission to write about this).
I'm fascinated with human behavior and understanding why people do what they do. Always have been. But now it's time to shine the light on myself. Then, I'll expand from my life to include the many examples why people might not listen to you as well.
It's a common issue, but you might consider some of the 15 reasons below quite uncommon.
Make sure you read to the end because the last few are weird.
The Tables are Turned - When I Don't Listen
It all starts innocently enough.
When you're first in a relationship--whether it's with a new friend or a romantic partner--everything seems perfect. Every word uttered drips with honey and paying attention and listening is easy.
But then something changes.
Patterns become ingrained and it's soon easy to predict the next words that will come out of the other person's mouth. It's often not intentional--it just is what it is.
Relationships, before you realize it, can become automatic. They start to fall into grooves and form familiar patterns. This is not automatically a bad thing--it's a way for the brain to save space and focus on other things in life.
But it is a bad thing when one person does not feel listened to, when they don't feel heard and validated for who they are.
Here I come, entering stage left...
I have a tendency to become so enthralled with whatever I'm doing that I neglect other areas of my life. I can be totally focused on a conversation and nodding but also thinking about whatever interesting project that has captured my attention in the last week or month. I can make promises and picture the response in my mind without ever checking to see if how I heard the request is actually what the other person meant when they said it.
There are unlimited variations of missteps that lead to miscommunication and me not receiving the message.
It doesn't even have to be a chronic problem. One or two instances of my wife feeling that I have not listened to her is enough to be a problem that I need to address.
Remember, if a person feels that you are not listening to them--even if you don't always agree--it means that it's an issue that needs to be talked about until you and the other person come to a mutual understanding.
15 Reasons People Don't Listen to You
What follows are several key reasons why people don't listen to you.
I speak from humble experience.
Get these right, and you will be much better off in almost all areas of your life.
How to Get People to Listen to You
1. You aren't having a balanced conversation - This is a big one. If it's all about you, then you're going to have a hard time getting people to listen to you.
2. You are not listening to other people - This might seem obvious, but a lot of people don't realize they are doing it. We are the narrators of our own lives, so it's easy to remember that other people don't live in our brains. Next time you're having a conversation, ask yourself if you're truly being present and trying to get your point across in a way that people can understand.
3. You're interrupting other people - "That's great, but I..." "Hey, that reminds me of..." Does, this sound like you? If you keep interjecting with your thoughts before other people have finished theirs, there's a good chance you're making people not want to listen to you
4. You're just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can start talking - This is fairly straightforward, and people can tell if you're doing this. Don't just hold on to your awesome story to save the day once your conversation partner has stopped talking. Be natural. Practice active listening. Respond in the moment.
5. You are coming across as too desperate for attention - It's human behavior to not want to be forced to validate someone. So if you keep asking people to compliment you, it's only a matter of time before people will start to tune you out.
6. You're more concerned about your image / how you are perceived than the quality of the conversation - Do you want to protect your image? Or do you want to have a good conversation? Seriously consider this.
7. Your body language is sending mixed signals - Your words say yes, but your body says no. What I mean is that if you give appropriate responses but you're not even looking at the person talking to you, it doesn't make the other person want to listen or pay attention when you talk.
8. You're saying the same thing over and over again - If you think people aren't hearing you, then ask them about it. Don't just belabor the point two, three, or four times. It will lead to others tuning out.
9. You don't know the person well enough - This is an interesting one. It could be that you don't know the person that you're talking to. Before you launch into a tirade about why stamps are too expensive or why your train collection is the bees' knees, maybe you should ask a few questions first to gather information about their interests.
10. You're not asking any questions - Which leads me to my next point. Are you asking any questions? At all? To get people to listen to you, you have to show an active interest in their lives. The best relationships are reciprocal--they have a healthy give and take.
11. You are talking about something they know nothing about - This can go hand in hand with number 9 above. Maybe the other person doesn't know--or care to know about--quantum physics. Maybe they would rather talk about cheese.
12. You're talking about something you know nothing about - Or maybe you're pretending to be a great cheese connoisseur and you're actually talking to the former Ms. Dairy of the State of Wisconsin. Be sure you're not talking down to someone who may know a lot more than you do about the topic.
13. You're talking badly about other people - This is a huge turn-off. If you're constantly gossiping, you make it hard for people to connect with you. Sure, you may find someone to gossip with, but is that really a high-quality conversation that puts good vibes into the world?
14. You don't care enough about what you're saying - This might seem odd to you, but I've seen and heard people who don't actually care what they're talking about. They're just filling up space. They're talking just to talk. It's bizarre, but it happens.
15. You don't actually want to be heard - And we'll end with a real zinger. If people aren't listening to you, you have to ask yourself some questions: Do I truly want to be heard? Do I want to make waves about a particular topic? Am I feeling good about myself? Do I really want the attention right now, or am I playing a part I believe others want me to play?
Always, always ask yourself questions. If you take the time to be introspective, you'll soon start to discover why people aren't listening to you.
All these examples come from my own life. As a human being, I know they'll be relevant to yours.
But don't just take my word for it.
Your Relationships Are Not Set In Stone
You can always get better.
Relationships can always improve.
I'm not saying that you are a terrible person. Far from it. What I'm saying is that, like I need to do in my own life, we all have to put in the work.
If people are claiming you don't listen, then it's a real issue for them.
Of course, it's up to you to decide if any particular relationship is worth working on.
And the relationship I have with my wife is worth working on.
She knows me best. She's been there for me in the worst moments of my life. It's easy to forget that.
So, trust me, I'll be reviewing this list.
I'll be putting in the work, and I hope you will, too.