It’s a frustrating situation. You’re sharing advice or giving instructions and the other person just isn’t listening. Why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do to switch on another person’s listening response? Here are the top three reasons people might be switching off when you speak. It’s not because they are difficult people!
1. You’ve triggered an ‘inner child’ reaction
If a colleague perceives you to be in ‘lecturing parent’ mode they’ll react in ‘defiant child’ mode. This can quickly lead to workplace conflict. To prevent this happening, you need to manage your posture, gestures and language patterns. Aim to remain in ‘adult’ mode by:
- Keeping your arms and legs uncrossed – adopting an assertive stance
- Shifting your body into a relaxed, upright posture
- Avoiding blamer-style gestures such as pointing (not only with your finger, but with objects such as pens)
- Eliminating parental trigger phrases such as ‘When I was your age…’ or ‘You should…’
- Asking what the other person thinks, instead of simply lecturing them
For more practical tips on keeping your body language open and non-threatening, read Difficult People Made Easy.
2. You’ve failed to spell out how your message benefits them
People listen best when they find a message interesting or useful. So before you share information, you need to point out how it is useful to the other person. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with so-called ‘difficult people’ who have trouble listening. Here are some phrases you can use to highlight the benefits of listening to what you’ve got to say:
- Would you like to solve the problem of….?
- I came across something you might find useful
- Let’s talk about how you can…
- If you want to…you might consider…
- Would you like some suggestions on how to…?
3. You’re in monologue mode
Many people have short attention spans. They are likely to switch off when someone else talks for longer than ten minutes. This means you need to involve your listener in order to make your message stick. To do this, try:
- Asking solution focused questions to engage others
- Encouraging the other person to share their thoughts about what you have to say
- Taking a coaching approach when giving feedback
- Instead of giving advice, setting up a collaborative problem solving conversation
- Thanking your listener for paying attention when you speak
Want to develop your employees’ skills in listening or speaking with influence? Book Eleanor Shakiba to run a customised training program at your workplace.